INDIANAPOLIS -- The historic 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 will only feature one woman this year and drawing women to STEM related jobs in motorsports has been a decades long effort.
It wouldn’t be until 1977 that a woman would compete in the Indianapolis 500. Janet Guthrie, whose first career was as an aerospace engineer, says she fell in love with engineering as a student.
"I found the study of physics very beautiful," Guthrie said. "The first occasion of deriving Maxwell’s Equation was as beautiful as first looking into Chapman’s Homer."
Grace Autosports had planned to run at this year’s 500 with a majority women on the team and a goal to engage young women in engineering but ultimately they were unable to secure a car. Still, recent efforts to dram more women to STEM careers in motorsports are gaining traction.
Almost half of the motorsports club at George Washington High in Indianapolis is made up of girls. 16 year-old twins Viviana and Victoria Valdez participated in Purdue’s annual Motorsports STEM event last week at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway where they built and raced carts.
Victoria says the club has helped improve her math and science skills and she sees it having an influence on other girls.
"I think it gives them more confidence about what they’re doing and what can they do," Valdez said.
In the history of the 500 only 11 women have ever competed, compared to 756 men.