To say, Vicki Gray is an adventurer, would be an understatement. The subject of our latest Women in Powersports profile has driven herself to take risks, aim for the highest peaks, and get off the beaten track for her entire adult life. At 19, she was travelling Canada training merchandisers. At 23, she was winning awards for the highest profit increases in the sales territories she managed. And then she sold everything and moved to the Caribbean island of St. Maarten to ride all year long and continue to teach others, expanding her passion for motorcycling.
Always looking for the next challenge, Vicki crossed the Atlantic to The Netherlands. There, in 1998, alongside a demanding career in business development and marketing, as well as racing her bikes, she founded a non-profit motorcycle training and support community for women. Promoted through the world’s first website for women motorcycle riders, this eventually became MOTORESS in 2005, to embrace the entire range of women’s riding disciplines. Back in Toronto, and making a full-time occupation of her passion, she launched International Female Ride Day® in 2007, calling on women around the globe to “Just Ride!”.
Describing herself as a “self-made” woman, Vicki has got where she is today under her own steam, proving the power of independence. But her drive to share her passion with others has led her to actively further the cause of women in powersports and in society at large, bringing them together in a powerful community of women riders.
What’s it like to be a woman in the powersports industry?
That’s a difficult question as there are many moving parts. I think that being a woman, an expert, particularly at the levels I’ve operated at, can be perplexing for many of the men, and women I’ve encountered. The roles I’ve had in motorsports have not been typical. I’ve been involved in motorsports in various cultures for over three decades and, during that time, I’ve enjoyed incredible successes but as well, tackled enormous hurdles. I’ve navigated both with eyes focused forward, relentlessly driven to achieve the experiences I pursued, and my goals.
And looking back, the entire process has been solo. I started racing by my own initiative and raced throughout Europe, solo. Of course I knew all the guys I raced with in every paddock who’d provide back up if needed - but I did it all. I took care of my transport, setup, tire changes, technical inspections and of course the racing! This resulted in an irreplaceable first-hand wealth of knowledge - an experience I wouldn’t trade for the world.
How have things changed for women since you started out?
Women as a gender group have taken many steps forward, yet the steps are not large strides and are still met with resistance. There is still a lot to do to bring parity for women but, things are progressing. For a woman to opt for a career, rather than setting up a family and having children, is now the norm in many countries. Women are attaining higher educations, becoming more independent, and ever more respected. However, there are many countries where this progress is still very far behind.
And what’s been truly advantageous is how through internet’s invention, we have the ability to connect which has truly helped women’s advancements. It has brought our worlds closer and made our voices visible, unified, and we have tools like International Female Ride Day® to collaborate and accelerate us forward.
How are you promoting women yourself?
I devote most of my efforts to advancing skills, training women to ride so they can attain their very best experience of motorcycling. I also created MOTORESS to support women in their motoring pursuits while simultaneously providing real moto information that is comprehendible. For many women, advice from other riders can be overwhelming and conflicting - and most of the advice is based from personal experience. It’s not necessarily applicable or factual.
And of course, there’s International Female Ride Day® (IFRD). It takes place on the first Saturday in May, and celebrates the cultural, social and active lifestyles of women who ride and enjoy motorcycling. It’s also a call to action for fast-tracking gender equality, awareness, and respect for women in motorcycling or motorsport. Every woman riding on IFRD is a role model for the diverse, unique and common passion women share for motorcycling, and I love that Can-Am is committed to encouraging women to take to the open road.
While most of my rides over the last 35 years have been solo, IFRD has given me the opportunity and privilege of riding with groups of women around the world, and it’s been incredibly exhilarating! In India, with over a hundred women; in the southern USA, where the women had arranged police escort through the main streets; the pride, the validation, and the importance we all felt was truly extraordinary!
Do you have any advice for women in business?
My advice is to “stand strong, trust and believe in yourself!” Often, in fighting for change, you’ll stand alone. But if you trust in you, believe in your cause, maintain your standards and stick to your goals you’ll pull through to the finish line. And don’t be too hard on yourself – you’ll make mistakes and that’s where the real lessons lie – it’s all part of learning, growth and attaining success.
“Stand strong, trust and believe in yourself!”