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Jenny Fletcher: “Instilling it from a young age that anything is possible is such an important message”

Females in Motorsport spoke with Jenny Fletcher, Programme Manager for FIA Girls on Track UK at Motorsport UK. During the conversation, we spoke about how Jenny left her career in teaching to pursue a career in motorsport, what it’s like to work with Susie Wolff, and how FIA Girls on Track is working to inspire a future generation of women in motorsport.

 

In her teenage years, Jenny was first introduced to the world of motorsport by her late step-dad, his love for Formula 1 and his experience in engineering. Prior to this, Jenny had no interest in motorsport, and neither did her family.

 

“I remember him saying ‘Jenny, do you want to come watch the car go around the circuit?’ and I thought ‘how boring’,” she says. “But gradually over the next few months, I fell in love with it.”

 

After graduating from university, Jenny became a primary school teacher but her love for motorsport continued.

 

“I was teaching Year 1 and 2, and I had a fantastic head teacher who was very trustworthy,” she says. “He allowed me to deliver the curriculum and be creative.”

 

Jenny really enjoyed being creative and combined her love of motorsport with teaching and created activities and learning experiences for her students.

 

“I created a topic called ‘Need for Speed’, and I integrated all the different curriculum subjects,” she tells Females in Motorsport. “In geography, we looked at circuits across the world, in history, we looked into the history of motorsport, and in PE we were doing Red Arrows formations.

 

“I managed to persuade a local company to come in with their Cherry Picker to teach the children about engineering. I loved doing things like that; it was so enriching.”

 

Jenny spent 10 years as an educator, before she decided to take the plunge into motorsport, and she started by looking into events.

 

“I wanted to get into it but I didn’t have any qualifications in that, or any experience,” she says. “I applied for a few jobs with teams but never heard anything back.”

 

 

But Jenny continued searching and applying and in 2016, she discovered ‘Dare to be Different’ - the initiative launched by Susie Wolff to inspire the next generation of women in motorsport.

 

“I saw a Sky Sports article about it, and reading the article, it was all about working with girls who were still in school, wanting to showcase their talents and create the next generation,” she says. “I thought, this sounds amazing, what an incredible opportunity.”

 

And so, Jenny took the leap and contacted Susie Wolff via a website, and shared information about herself, her background, and offered to volunteer for Dare to Be Different.

 

Luckily, Jenny heard from a member of Susie’s team who mentioned that Susie would be at the Autosport International Show and encouraged Jenny to ‘come along and say hi’.

 

“Fortunately, Susie happened to be there,” she explains. “We sat down for half an hour and in the end, she said ‘I can see your passion, and you’re clearly very dedicated, do you want the job?’ and so it started from there.”

 

Following another meeting with Susie the next day, Jenny secured the role of UK Programme Manager for Dare to be Different, and on the following Monday, she told her schools Head Teacher about the role and the possibility of her leaving teaching.

 

Given that Dare to be Different was a charity in essence, and Jenny was leaving the comfort of a government funded and stable job, she joined the team on a six-week trial.

 

After the trial was up, Jenny had made her decision.

 

“I carried on teaching until February half-term, and then made my decision - it was a yes; it was so right for me,” she says. “Looking back I did struggle. I was working, starting up a charity, and planning my first ever event, but I wouldn't have changed it for the world.

 

“I feel so incredibly lucky to have been given this opportunity by Susie, because like I said, on paper, I was just a teacher.”

 

Dare to be Different had four successful years before FIA Girls on Track started. In the early stages, it was for girls aged 13 to 18 across seven European countries. And, the winner won funding to support their karting career.

 

Jenny leaned in to support the UK programme and she wanted to make sure the event was more than karting.

 

“I wanted to make it different from other events I had created over the last two years,” she says. “We had pit stop challenges, we had scientific partners that the girls got to speak to, with machines where they could test engine oil, and we had model and show cars.

 

“I wanted a whole range because I wanted girls to come along, and do karting, but to also go away feeling inspired.”

 

The FIA were pleased with what Jenny had rolled out and agreed that there was more to be done, beyond karting. In 2020, the FIA and Motorsport UK created FIA Girls on Track UK.

 

“I went from working for Susie, to working for Motorsport UK,” she says.

 

In the last three years, the programme has evolved and gone from strength to strength and along with her team, she continues to host events to support and inspire females.

 

“It’s an absolute privilege to have the position I have,” she tells Females in Motorsport. “I love the two sides of working with older girls that are aspiring to work in the industry and connecting them with the contacts I’ve made over the last seven years.

 

“And, then I love introducing motorsport to these young girls that come to our school events, they’ve been told to get on a mini-bus and they’re not sure why they’re there or what they’re in for.”

 

In December, Jenny and her team hosted a highly successful event which brought 52 11-14 year olds together for an introduction to motorsport and a variety of activities.

 

“At first, they sit there like rabbits in headlights and by the end, they’re bouncing off the walls,” she says. “And, you know that in an all-female space, they’ve come out of their comfort zone, they’ve tried something different, have learned about motorsport, and think this is something I want to consider when I’m older.”


 

December’s event is just one of the many initiatives, and activities, that Jenny gets involved in.

 

“One of the things I love about my job is that no two days are ever the same,” she says. “It also depends on the time of the year, as we may have a lot of events.”

 

Prior to her recent events, Jenny reflected on research group feedback and as per their request, she tried to invite as many people from industry because that’s what the community said they wanted.

 

“They want the opportunity to speak to someone from a Formula 1 team, and ask them what they do, and to also realise they’re not scary, they’re just normal people,” she says.

 

And so, Jenny delivered. In one of their December events, 100 community members attended alongside speakers and representatives from Formula E, Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula 1 Team, and Williams Racing.

 

“Every single table, there was at least one person who worked in the industry,” she tells us.

 

It’s no secret that Jenny has had an incredible impact on many people across her career, but there is one standout moment for her, which happened the day before we spoke to her in December.

 

“I received an email from a girl who came to a FIA Girls on Track event in 2018, and she was around 12/13 at the time,” she says. “And she said that as a result of that day, she was inspired to go into mechanical engineering, and she’s now studying that at university.”

 

The same girl attended an event hosted by Jenny just a few days before we spoke, and was asked to write a Christmas wish, and hers was to get an industrial placement at Williams Racing.

 

“She emailed me yesterday and said ‘Jenny, I just had the call, I’ve got the placement. I haven’t even told my parents yet, I wanted to tell you first. Without you, without the opportunity, I didn’t think I’d be in this position’.

 

“That’s probably my proudest moment this year, I just feel so blessed to have this job,” she says.

 

Jenny also got married last year, but the email she received in December was a proud moment for her, and is a real testament to her, and the impact she’s had on this community.

 

When asked about how others can be confident enough to start their journey in motorsport, Jenny answered with “I think it’s instilling it from a young age that anything is possible is such an important message,” and that’s exactly what Jenny is doing in her role and with FIA Girls on Track UK.

 

All pictures are courtesy of Jenny Fletcher and Motorsport UK.

 

 

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