While women’s sport has seen a boom in popularity and accessibility in Australia in recent years, this doesn’t always translate to an equal share of media coverage or commercial opportunities for female athletes. Pickstar, Australia’s largest talent marketplace for sports stars and celebrities, is working to change this, and are having considerable success in their efforts – quite timely, when you consider the ramifications of the pandemic for many athletes, including Australia’s leading female race car driver, Emily Duggan.
Emily, who famously pursued a career in motorsport after having no ties to the sport growing up and despite its historical male dominance, was unable to race in 2020 due to the cancellation of the Supercars Series 3 & Toyota86 championships. In 2021, those competitions have resumed, however a loss of her sponsors as a result of pandemic-related budget cuts, means she’s missed the opening two rounds. On top of this, she has also lost other jobs she had to support her part-time sporting career.
She has, however, been able to generate income through Pickstar, with multiple notable businesses engaging her as a keynote speaker and somebody to impart knowledge and tips for success to their employees.
In the time Pickstar has been running, they have seen significant growth in the rate of female bookings, and an increased willingness to pay equal amounts for access to female talent. By working with new and existing customers to help them understand the many ways they can benefit from booking a female star to fill their needs, Pickstar is helping these stars maximise their earning potential.
How did you get into the male dominated industry of race car driving?
From a very young age, about 6 or 7 years old, I saw V8 Supercars on television and it was like a spark lit up inside of me. I never wanted to be a spectator though, I wanted to be a driver. Unfortunately, I didn’t see any females driving the cars or in pit lanes, so I immediately thought it was something that girls didn’t participate in and that it wasn’t achievable for me.
It wasn’t until I was older, early 20s, that I was working at a desk job and I realised that the job wasn’t necessarily the right fit. I realised I had the freedom to do anything I wanted and that I should live my life exactly how I wanted to.
So I thought to myself, what do I want to do? And that’s when I remembered the spark I had for V8 Supercars.
The next step was figuring out how to become a driver. This took a lot of research, finding out how much it was going to cost and a lot of saving up. I found a race category I wanted to start in, bought a car and taught myself mechanics. The rest is history.
What’s your experience as a female driver been like?
This is a hard question because I don’t know what it’s like to be a male driver. I guess going into motorsports, with the research I had done, and watching this on tv – you don’t see a lot of females. I knew I was going into a sport where I was most likely the only girl. I never thought of myself as a female amongst all these other males though, I always thought of myself as a person. We were all just people and drivers, gender didn’t come in to play for it. I do think that I’ve been handed some opportunities that I’ve dismissed because they were only given to me as a female, or maybe I’ve missed out on some things because it hasn’t been proven that a girl can win a Supercars championship – so until that day happens, and I hope I’m the one to do it, there might be some opportunities that I’ve missed out on. But for the most part, I’ve never thought it’s because of my gender, it’s because of experience. Most of the other drivers have been racing since they were 7 or 8 years old and have worked their way up.
Take us through 2020, being unable to race in the Supercars Series 3 & Toyota86 series due to pandemic, as well as losing your sponsorship and other jobs used to support your sporting career.
I think 2020 was such a crazy year for so many people. Everyone experienced heartache and hardship to some degree. With myself, I lost my job and I lost two sponsorships that would have enabled me to race in the Supercars Series 3 that year. So I really took a big hit, but the resilience I developed through motorsports and life in general really helped. It also helps when you realise that everything is temporary. The hard times aren’t permanent, but neither are the good times. Everything is always kind of moving forward, so it’s important to learn to pick yourself up and keep moving. There will always be more things and better things to come.
Tell us about Pickstar, and how it has offered you commercial opportunities to support your career? What have these been? How have you benefited from these opportunities?
Pickstar is a booking platform, where companies can advertise an opportunity – it might be a public speaking job, a television commercial, or an influencer campaign – to over 2000 athletes and other celebrities. We can then choose to nominate for the opportunity if it’s something that we think we’d like to do, and meets certain requirements relevant to us, such as where and when we need to be there. I absolutely love the Pickstar platform. I do a lot of networking in general, especially prior to COVID. Meeting people and being introduced is really important if you want to have a successful career. I’ve done zoom calls, in-person presentations and worked with charities.
Pickstar is such a blessing because you can put yourself in front of people. If you’re an athlete and you’re not on the platform, you need to get on it because it gives so many opportunities to be able to connect with people. I’ve been lucky enough to get opportunities due to attending events through Pickstar, opportunities that have then led me to progress in my motorsport career.
It’s so great to have a platform that puts you in front of the companies that are already looking for keynote speakers or brand ambassadors. I have a lot of praise for Pickstar.
SheSociety is a site for the women of Australia to share our stories, our experiences, shared learnings and opportunities to connect.