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Cockpit to Classroom: NASCAR Driver Julia Landauer Advocates for Women & STEM

Julia Landauer

We’ve done quite a few interviews over the years on Lake Effect about where education in the STEM fields - science, technology, engineering, and math - fits in the 21st century economy. In particular, there has been a concerted effort to attract more girls to the field, so that someday there will be more women in engineering and tech fields.

READ: Closing the Tech Gender Gap One Girl at a Time

Girls can follow in the footsteps of astronomer Annie Jump Canon, who cataloged 350,000 stars; or Chieng-Shiung Wu, the First Lady of Physics, who worked on the Manhattan Project.

Or they could try not to be left in the dust by Julia Landauer, who advocates for girls in STEM as she competes as a NASCAR driver. Landauer is also a Stanford graduate and a former competitor on the TV show Survivor. Her many different platforms will be part of her keynote speech at the Mount Mary University Voices of Leadership event on March 14.

Landauer says racing requires of technical literacy as well as understanding of outside applications. She says there are many misconceptions about racing, professional drivers, and how difficult it actually is. "You can’t be a dummy and go racing, right?  You cannot be dumb and operate a machine at 200 miles an hour within inches of a wall for hours on end. So I think that’s a sad rep that some racing can have."

While she is best known for being a female race car driver, she longs for the title of "great race car driver." " [However,] I do think it's important to have the conversation about the significance of women really starting to break through - from a driving side but then also from am engineering side and a mechanic side because there are only so many women in the garage."

Landauer is working to bridge the worlds of Silicon Valley and racing through an outlet that she doesn't normally get to use on the race track - public speaking. "I found that I was experiencing an adrenaline rush - not quite as intense as when I get on the race track, but it was still there. And it still requires that preparation and getting on a stage and being vulnerable and putting it all out there."

She is also an advocate for equal pay, equal opportunity, and greater safety. "The fact that I have different things going on (with) my brand and my platform than just racing, I think is a really cool opportunity to continue to spread that message."

Audrey Nowakowski hosts and produces Lake Effect. She joined WUWM in 2014.