WEEK #51: ANNA HE
Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
My family immigrated to Canada from China in the early 80’s, where I literally took my first walking steps as a baby in Toronto. Learning a new language and navigating a new culture made it difficult in the beginning for our family. I was bullied in preschool for being different and a tomboy, preferring Transformers over Barbie dolls. In grade one, the school staged its first track and field meet where I quickly discovered that I was the fastest runner in my class. It lit a fire in me and gave me confidence to stand up for myself, which ended the bullying quickly. Shortly after, I started getting heavily involved in whatever sports the school offered, from track and field, volleyball, badminton and much more. Moving and switching schools several times until my teenage years made it challenging to fit it during each transition. Being involved in sports was the constant, which propelled me to continually meet new people, develop life and leadership skills in order to adapt to the changing circumstances.
In high school, I got an after school position that required me to drive in order to make the schedule work. Enjoying the new freedom of driving started a passion to learn how cars worked, handled and slowly it became an extension of self-expression. I was introduced in the import show scene, where car enthusiasts would modify and customize their cars with a ‘fast and furious’ flair. I also noticed that most females in the import show scene were ‘accessorized’ in scantily clad outfits, suggestively sprawled on top of the cars, and quickly got disgusted and bored.
That’s when I discovered motorsports, totally fell in love pushing a vehicle to its limits, and co-founded a group called Team SGR Advanced Driving in 1999. Our mission was two-fold; we wanted to change how women are perceived in the male-dominated car industry, and to encourage women, men and youth to engage in motorsports as a platform to push a higher level of personal excellence. We do this through activities such as performance driver training programs, car clinics, road safety education and much more. Today, I couldn’t imagine my life without motorsports and returning from a race, win or lose, always feels great.
Please share a story about an internal or external barrier you have faced.
As a female in the motorsports industry, you are fighting against stereotypes and sexist biases that have built up over many decades. When I decided I wanted to build a car to competitively race with, I met many men at automotive shops that wouldn’t take me seriously. There weren’t any older relatives or close family members that showed interest in automobiles like I did, and it took time to overcome the social barriers to network, meet and trust the right people to build a competitive car and supporting team. The more adversity I ran into, the harder my resolve became to accomplish what I set out to do.
How did you overcome that barrier? What skills did you develop in sport that helped you overcome your barrier?
Channeling the skills I learned growing up with sports was critical in helping me push through not only the social barriers, but others such as physical, technical, psychological, and financial. I realize that I am not always viewed and accepted in the same way as my male counterparts, but realize it’s part of the journey. Critical skills learned in sports include accountability, commitment, courage, learning to work under pressure, time management, and perseverance.