The Program: Women in Racing
From exercise riders to stallion managers to journalists, it’s not hard to find women participating in a significant way in horse racing these days. But the path for women working at a career in racing isn't always a smooth one.
In the ‘Perspectives: Women in Racing’ panel at Equestricon, the racing industry will have a chance to hear some of the experiences and challenges women face finding jobs and working in the industry from the women who have faced them. Taking place Tuesday, August 15, at 11:00 AM, six women will talk about their various roles in the industry, and share their thoughts on the sport.
Natalie Voss, a journalist and panelist at Equestricon, was excited when when she was asked to take part in this panel because of her belief in the vital role women play in the sport.
“The topic of women's roles in horse racing is really important to me, particularly since I transitioned from being a fan of the sport as a girl to working in it as an adult. I was honored to be asked to join in this panel.”
Interestingly, when interviewing John Williams recently for a story, Voss gained a deeper appreciation for why a panel such as this is important. Williams told her why he hired women during his time as a manager at Spendthrift Farm in the 1980s -- the stories resonated with Voss when thinking about women in the sport.
“He remembers being one of the first managers to hire young women to work at the sales and on the farm, and he thought at the time, the move was a no-brainer,” she said. “For him, it wasn't so much a statement on gender equality as it was obvious to him that young women were a tremendous untapped resource, since many of them had horse experience and their love of the animal created a sense of dedication to put in the long hours, which benefitted the horses tremendously. I think, 30 years later, that's still a good point; there are a lot of women working in other equine disciplines who could offer a lot to the Thoroughbred business. From another perspective, I also believe that at a time when the sport's fan base continues to shrink, racing can't afford to make any one group of people feel unwelcome.”
In addition to her own perspectives from working in the sport and those of the other panelists, Voss hopes that the panel also opens up discussion on what may still need to be improved on when it comes to women’s roles in the sport. Accompanying Voss on the panel will be pioneering racing broadcaster Donna Brothers, noted turf writer Teresa Genaro, New York-based steward Erinn Higgins, and equine veterinary student, rider and writer Carleigh Fedorka. The panel will be moderated by NYRA paddock host and analyst Maggie Wolfendale Morley.
“Since the role of women in racing has changed a lot over time, I'm hoping the panel can both recognize how far we've come, and spark discussion about areas we've noticed that are still problematic. I'm hoping we can suggest solutions to some of those issues, too,” said Voss. “Although I think the role of women in the racing industry has grown significantly in the past few decades, we still face unique challenges in the business. I worry that many assume since there are more women participating in the sport, there can't be any lingering barriers to their working in the business or becoming fans. I don't believe that's true.”
As far as Equestricon’s importance to racing both within this panel and others, Voss said that the event provides a unique and unprecedented platform for engagement.
“I think it's such a great opportunity for fans who want to learn more about the sport; if they attend a healthy mix of sessions, they'll come away with an education in the sport that I only dreamed of when I was a fan. I'm actually quite jealous! The Thoroughbred business is complicated from the outside looking in, it's really its own world. When I first got into racing, I read a lot of books and magazines to get background on what goes into making a racehorses, but there wasn't anything like this available then.”
If you’re a woman wondering how to get into the sport or an employer wondering how you can make a better work environment for your employees, this is a good panel to attend. For those looking for a job in the industry, this panel also pairs up well with the Monday afternoon question and answer session on how to get a job in racing.