Aurora Straus, a 22-year-old race car driver, Harvard student, and women’s rights advocate, spoke to Middle and Upper School members of the GLOW (Girls Leading Our World) Club on Monday, May 17 about working in a male-dominated industry, knowing your self-worth and advocating for yourself.
Straus, a junior at Harvard University, fell in love with racing when she was 13 and competed professionally for the first time at age 16. “The race car doesn’t know the difference between female muscle and male muscle or female endurance and male endurance. You just need to be able to drive it well,” she said.
Still, she said that she has encountered her share of sexism and stereotypes in the racing world, and nearly quit the sport when she was 14 because an instructor told her that she “braked like a girl and handled the car like a girl.”
Aurora told GLOW Club members that there are three main stereotypes about women in racing — women aren’t aggressive enough; women are too aggressive; and women are fragile. To combat the stereotypes and serve as a resource, Aurora started Girls With Drive, a nonprofit initiative designed to get young girls interested in motorsports and STEM careers.
She said her racing career has taught her three main lessons (which apply to other areas of her life as well) — use fear as a tool; know your worth; and being unique is better than being the best.
“Professional race car drivers are very close in terms of skill level, and a race can be decided in a blink of an eye,” she said. “My edge comes from being unique and embracing who I am.”
In a Q&A with the students, Aurora was asked how she asserts herself. “It’s a small, symbolic thing, but when I enter a room I like to shake hands, look people in the eye and then find a seat at the center of the table,” she said. “Usually finding a seat at the table is a metaphor, but I take it quite literally.”
She said that she had to work very deliberately to build her confidence. “I had to make a conscious decision not to apologize too much – especially for things that weren’t my fault,” she said. “Instead of saying ‘I’m sorry’ I’ll say ‘thank you all for your patience.’”
She concluded her talk by telling the group to aim high in life. “I’m a genuine believer that with the right amount of passion and practice, you can do anything you set your mind to,” she told the students.
Special thanks to GLOW Club member and motorsports enthusiast Samantha Brown ’24 for arranging the Zoom with Aurora Straus.