Helèna Hicks: “You have to make the sacrifices, but it is all worth it.”
Before I start this post, I want to share how personal it is to me. Helèna is one of my idols in the motorsport industry, and without Females In Motorsport, I wouldn’t have had the confidence to start my own blog. It was about six months ago that I began watching Formula 1. It was with my dad and my sister, and to be completely honest, started because I was bored during the weekends and wanted extra TV time. I was quickly hooked and fell in love with the sport. I soon realized that nothing made me feel the way I did when I read and watched motorsport.
I started my LiveJournal blog about two months ago and when I made my first post, I sent my godmother a link to the Females In Motorsport site that had inspired me to start my own blog. Females In Motorsport had shown me that I could have a career in the sport and that I wasn’t alone in wanting one. I woke up the day after that first post to a flurry of messages from my godmother. She told me she had reached out to Females In Motorsport on the ‘Contact Us’ page, a button I had never had the confidence to press. My godmother had shared my story with them, and Females In Motorsport had replied to say they wanted to read my blog. I scrambled to produce some more content and emailed the link to them, never once thinking it would have had the response it got. Helèna told me that she was impressed with my work and offered to let me write for Females In Motorsport. Three weeks ago, the post was published, and two Saturdays ago, I got to interview Helèna. As well as her kindly offering to be a mentor figure for me, it was also like speaking to the big sister I never had. Without Helèna, I would still be reading my career books, poring over the pages, desperately searching for something that excited me, to no avail. At 13, opportunities like this wouldn’t usually be given to me, and I feel honoured to learn from someone like Helèna.
With Helèna’s new job as Communications Executive at Crunch Communications, working across the PETRONAS account, I know she’s busy. I’m grateful that she made the time to talk to me, as I appreciate her tips and advice.
Helèna is only 22-years-old but has already had plenty of opportunities in the motorsport industry. As I mentioned earlier, she has just started a new job at Crunch and says of the position, “The main account I will be working on is PETRONAS, title sponsor and technical partner of the Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS Formula One Team. Part of my role is to assist with social media, events and communications strategy. I’ll be in conversation with the press to try and generate coverage for PETRONAS.”
This job has been a long time in the making for Helèna as her love of motorsport came at 13 years old. Just two years later, Helèna had her heart set on working in F1. She too started watching motorsport with her dad, as he was often busy at work during her childhood. Helena told me that she loved remembering the three-letter surname shortenings on the timing board and that “GLO” for Timo Glock is one of the first she remembers learning.
However, Helèna’s journey into motorsport hasn’t been without setbacks. When Helèna was at a career meeting in school, her teachers advised her to take her love of Communications and Media to work for the Police Force. Nevertheless, Helèna was adamant about her passion for motorsport and continued to research jobs in the field. She found a role model in Anna Pamin, who was a Press Officer for Red Bull Racing at the time. Helèna wanted to study Journalism at university and continue pursuing her motorsport career, but her teachers suggested that she instead choose Geography. The stigma of women working in racing is all too real, even in this day and age. The impact a strong female role model can have on young women is incredibly powerful, and I’m grateful to live in a time where there is no shortage of them.
In January 2017, at 18 years old, Helèna joined the Autosport Junior Programme. As an Autosport Junior Member, Helèna worked on “transcribing interviews and media monitoring for Pirelli F1 across several race weekends”. That same month, she also won the Sir William Lyons Award from The Guild of Motoring Writers and Jaguar Land Rover.
In late 2017, Helèna started the now-popular blog Females In Motorsport. According to their website, Females In Motorsport, “. . . aim to inform and inspire those around us about the amazing people working in the industry.” Females In Motorsport has reached over 10 million people on their social media platforms and their blog. The blog’s Twitter account recently hit 10,000 followers, an accomplishment that the Females In Motorsport team are incredibly proud of. Helèna and Females In Motorsport’s mission continue to make an impact on girls like me by highlighting the successes of empowering women in the industry.
In 2018, Helèna visited the Williams HQ in Oxfordshire to interview Claire Williams, who was Deputy Team Principal of Williams F1 at the time. “To get to do it in person and experience the Williams family feeling, even just for a day was very special. ” Helèna told The Racing Line, “I was surprised at how normal she was, that’s the best way to describe her, but she’s so clever and her passion for the team just shines through. She is one hell of a lady. She loves that team and the family. . .”
Helèna and I also discussed the male dominance of the motorsport industry. According to ESPN’s article, The women who power Formula One: Engineers, mechanics and directors on their role in changing a man’s world by Niamh Lewis, Mercedes has the biggest workforce with around 1,000 employees. 117 of those are women (11%). In Mercedes’ core race team and support team of 85 people, eight are women (10%). Even in the biggest Formula 1 team, the lack of female employment is a cause that needs to be given more attention.
When I asked Helèna if she was constantly aware of her gender while in the paddock, Helèna remarked that “I was, to begin with, because of the things like not having a female toilet when you’re at the race.” Helèna described several instances in British racing, where she is the only woman in the room. “You do notice when you look around and it’s like, ‘oh God.’”
“However, when you’re working you’ve just got your head down, and you’re so preoccupied and focused on the task at hand that you don’t really notice.”
Helèna’s advice to young women who would like to work in motorsport is; “Ask questions. Also, as soon as you can, set up a LinkedIn profile, even if you don’t feel like you have any experience to put on there. Just start connecting with the people that you look up to, pop them a message, and let them know that you’re wanting to have a career in the industry. The worst thing they can do is ignore you. Nine and a half times out of ten, they’ll want to help because, at some point, they’ve been in a similar position. They’ll just appreciate that you’ve had the courage to reach out.”
She also pointed out that “motorsport isn’t always glamourous. You have to make the sacrifices, but it is all worth it. In my experience, the highs are so much better than the lows. I’m a firm believer that everything happens for a reason.
“Make those connections, and don’t give up.”
Huge thank you to Helèna for being my first interview. Thank you for all your help and advice. It’s always a pleasure to chat with you.
All pictures of Helèna are credited to her, including the cover image.
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