Racing Through the Glass Ceiling


As Danica Patrick broke records last week as the first woman to take Pole at the Daytona 500 and the first woman to finish in the top 10 at the race, much of the commentary about Patrick during the race was patronizing, even sexual. Examine this commentary as transcribed by AOL SportingNews:

Lap 90 (Jeff): And that, folks, is the first lap ever led by a woman in the Daytona 500. Yes, she just did that. That just happened. Wow. She’s for real—at least here.
Lap 93 (Jeff): A big key will be whether Danica can find any help. Doubt it. That’s a shame.
Lap 94 (Jeff): And for the record, Ricky is running 14th. Danica is spanking him, so to speak.
Lap 97 (Jeff): Danica is being ganged up on by teammates. Is anybody man enough to help her? Jimmie? Junior? Anybody?

One of the biggest challenges facing women who try to break through barriers of any kind is being able to be seen as equal to the task. In Danica’s case, she was seen as a woman first and a driver second by the commentator, and that’s the challenge facing most organizations. Danica is breaking ground, however; Jimmie Johnson, who won the 2013 Daytona 500, had this to say: “‘She was just a car on the track,’ Johnson said. ‘I didn’t think about it being Danica. She was just another car on the track that was fast.’”