Part 1: Susie Wolff MBE on her career highlights so far and being a new mum
We’re proud to support Dare to be Different, an organisation founded by Susie to encourage more women into traditionally male-dominated automotive careers.
We were thrilled to schedule some time with Susie to catch up with her since our last interview back in 2013. Now based in Oxford, she also recently gave birth to her first child in April of this year.
A great deal has changed for Susie Wolff in the past 4 years. She announced her retirement from racing in late 2015 but she didn’t hit the brakes. She quickly moved on to use her skills and expertise in a new role as a Formula 1 Analyst on Channel 4, alongside the likes of David Coulthard and Mark Webber.
As well as driving female talent with the help of female motorsport and STEM role models through the Dare to be Different initiative, Susie has also been chosen as the main ambassador for She’s Mercedes, a campaign she has loved being part of, particularly because it embodies the same ethos as Dare to be Different.
‘She’s Mercedes is a fantastic initiative to try and connect with the female customer. 80% of car sales are influenced by women, so I think for them to recognise that they want to connect with the female customer is very positive. It’s about understanding their needs in an industry which is changing massively. It’s also about creating an environment where women can both empower and connect with each other, and this is often done through some brilliant events. Recently, we watched Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg speak at the Frankfurt Motor Show and met her afterwards, which was very inspiring.’
Throughout her career, Susie has inspired many people to enter the world of motorsport and she received recognition for this when she was honoured as a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) on the 2017 New Year Honours list for services to Women in Sport. She described being ‘very humbled to receive’ the title and thanked her family for their ‘never-ending’ support.
Another of her supporters is her husband Toto, Executive Director of the Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One team. She explains,
‘We support each other massively and always refer to ourselves as “Team Wolff” as it takes both of us working hard to make the whole thing function. I support him as much as I can within his role and vice versa. We are incredibly lucky that we are both passionate about the same things. We both love motorsport and we’re both very competitive, so we make sure that we put everything into ensuring the Formula One team is successful. Although I’m not involved daily, like him, in running the business, I love to see them winning and doing well. He’s great in that he recognises that I have my own career and my own things going on and he’s always very supportive of this.’
Team Wolff have also added a cub to the family – their new baby boy Jack, born in April this year. Will he be joining the team on the track when he’s old enough?
‘No, I’ll just be encouraging him to do what he loves to do and be passionate about whatever he does. If that’s motorsport I’ll support him massively. If it’s a different sport it’ll be the same. It’s just about him finding a sport he enjoys. That could involve giving him the opportunity to try lots of different sports and then the thing that he finds or that one passion, then for sure I’m going to support him.’
Given Susie’s existing hectic schedule and with a child to think about now, how does she prioritise?
‘I think we’re all in the same boat. I think we can have it all, but we’ve got to set priorities as we can’t have it all at the same time. I think we need to figure out in life what our top priorities are and just always reassess and make sure we’re always on the right path.
‘For me, right now, my priority is my son, but I don’t want my career to slide completely, so I’m doing a balancing act. Later on, as he gets slightly older, my career will come slightly more into focus but it is definitely still a balancing act. It helps to get advice and tips from friends and fellow mums.’
Susie acknowledges that there’s a lot of conflicting advice out there and a lot of people thinking their lifestyle is the only correct option.
‘I think as women we just need to support each other more and not get into this negativity between the mothers who think you should go back to work or stay at home. Everyone’s got to do what’s right for them and everyone’s different. You’ve just got to find the right path for yourself, whether that means being a full-time mum or going back to work. That’s an individual choice. Every person, every woman deserves to make that choice without feeling guilty.’
Look out for the second and third parts of this interview coming soon.