Our occasional series, “Women in Powersports”, spotlights our female colleagues in every area of the industry, and at all levels. This time, we’re turning our attention to the organization of sporting events, talking to one of the only women to head up a winter racing event, and not the smallest one at that! Véronique Lizette is General Manager of the Grand-Prix de Valcourt, the largest winter powersports event in the world, with six disciplines in one weekend: snowmobile and motocross on an ice oval, motocross and ATV on an iced road circuit, snocross and drag racing.
Véronique was always attracted by sporting activities that are “a bit more on the exciting side”, and also spent a good part of her teen years closely watching vintage Ski-Doos being taken apart and put back together in the family garage. “I think I’ve always had yellow blood…,” she confides. When she first attended the Grand Prix at age 16, she would never have guessed she would one day be its general manager. But she found her career path in leisure and sporting events, inspired by the way participants push their limits.
With a passion for her field, and sensitive to the female cause, today she works to make the sport more balanced. She tells us more about it below.
What is women’s status in powersports today, and is progress being made?
Racing events are mostly a male domain. Outside of Quebec, there are practically no women at management level in the organizing bodies. In some meetings, I’m the only woman round the decision-making table; let’s just say you have to be sure of yourself and stand up for yourself! But I feel extremely proud to be able to do my part to balance things out with a woman’s perspective. On our board of directors also, it was mostly men nine years ago. Now, it’s 50% women. It brings balance to the entire sport. And balance makes us able to achieve more.
I’d like women to be more present in decision-making for powersports events. I saw recently that a woman had been appointed General Manager of the Régates de Valleyfield, and it warmed my heart. I hope more room will be made for us in other major racing events in Canada and the US. It’ll come; slowly, but surely.
Regarding competitors , I see a lot more women taking part compared to when I started working in the field. The women’s category is growing in all motorsports. Before, there were practically no women racing. Now, registration of women snowmobilers is exploding every year. And there’s a lot of opportunity in the future to develop the ATV categories especially. Most women compete in mixed categories at the moment. We try to make a bit more room for them every year. Women can totally make their mark in this field. In fact, I know some that perform better than the boys. You just have to be interested in this type of sport.
How have things changed for women since you entered the job market, and what still needs to be done?
I can see that there is more openness in the workplace as a whole. With more women in the industry, everyone gets to see that it isn’t a competition between genders. Men are good at certain things, and women at others, in the same job. They complement each other. Personally, I always try to get the best talent, and if we have a balance of men and women, we have strength across the board. And this means we’re helping the company grow, as well as helping women grow. But there’s still progress to be made.
For example, I want women to feel comfortable everywhere in the workplace. In some areas of the company, it’s culturally acceptable for men to behave in certain ways that women aren’t comfortable with, and this takes time to change. I’m privileged to be in a position where women confide in me, believing I can make a difference, and I have brought this to the attention of our HR and communications teams, who are working on solutions to improve the work environment for everyone.
How do you help women in your field succeed, and what is your advice?
II try to put successful women up front on the international stage. It’s promoters like us that can make them into superstars, so that’s what we do. As soon as we have an opportunity to get them out in front, we try to do it, and it works. Then young girls emulate them, and we get a lot of new recruits. It’s always fun to see that we can make a big difference with little effort.
IOver the years, I’ve realized that what brings us all together in the powersports world is passion. If you’re passionate about something, you’ll succeed, whatever the difficulties. So I’d say, “Never let anyone tell you this is not a field for you; it’s a field for everyone who chooses it. Go for it! If you really want it, you’ll get it. Keep your eye on the prize and your ear open for every opportunity.
“Never let anyone tell you this is not a field for you; it’s a field for everyone who chooses it.”