I was having dinner a few months ago with a former Formula 1 driver. I’m not going to name names, but suffice it to say, it was a pretty cool experience. He had insights on racing and driving and cars that left me and my fellow car nerds transfixed. And then someone asked if he thought women would ever make it in F1.
He essentially said that women lack the physical strength and – due to their maternal instincts – the ability to compete with men. It was a surprising (and disappointing) comment, although it shouldn’t be that shocking considering the hyper-masculine world of auto racing. But why? Why hasn’t there been a successful female F1 driver? Why isn’t there a more even gender split in amateur racing? Why aren’t there more Ewy Rosqvists in the world?
Rosqvist, for those not up on their racing history, is a certified rally badass. The Swede, a Mercedes-Benz factory driver, was the first woman to win the 1962 Argentinian Touring Car Grand Prix and was a class winner at both the Monte Carlo Rally and the Nurburgring. And she did it at time when most American women thought their place was in the kitchen. To celebrate Rosqvist breaking the glass ceiling standing between her and the podium, Mercedes-Benz is teaming with Mattel to develop a special-edition Matchbox car based on Rosqvist and her silver Mercedes 220SE.
But Mercedes and Mattel aren’t just selling this toy. They’re gifting it to people that need to hear the message it represents: first-grade girls. As this video form Mercedes shows, children get a feel for the gender roles of toys early in life. When asked to choose from a selection of toys, all of the kids instinctively choose one of the “girly” options, like a doll or unicorn, while leaving the “boy toys,” like the new Mercedes Matchbox alone. Then the girls (and you, the viewer) learn about Rosqvist. By the end of the video, each of the girls is playing with the Mercedes, with a couple even drifting it around turns.
The video sends a message that girls (and boys) need to hear: they can do whatever they want, play with whatever they want, and pursue whatever they want. Check out the video up top.