Having had a burning love for cars since she was young, Sophie Williamson-Stothert is now living out her dream as a motoring journalist and author - making a living road-testing cars and writing about the hot topics of the motoring industry. (Who else is jealous?)
When we think of someone living the dream we often overlook the hardship and struggles that they’ve faced getting there, let alone the hardship of the challenges they face each day. This is especially true for Sophie, who has suffered from gender inequality far too often. Working in such a male-dominated industry has meant that Sophie has had to learn how to survive and adapt in her journey to the top…
What is your current role?
I worked my way up the editorial ladder to Features Editor at Car Dealer Magazine, before joining Kimberly Media Group as Deputy Editor. I now run my own business, SWS Media, and I specialist in writing features and news articles on automotive topics, motorsport, classic and modern cars, breathtaking places and extraordinary people. Bliss!
How did you get to the position you are now?
Determination, hard work and a sense of humour! Having started racing classic Minis at the age of 12 and developed a passion for the written word at GCSE, I knew exactly what I wanted to do as a career the moment I started my A Levels. That’s why I found the only undergraduate Motoring Journalism course in the country at the University for the Creative Arts, Farnham, and worked my socks off to get there. Within a month of starting university, I was doing work experience at Haymarket.
What barriers have you faced in your career?
Working in a male-dominated industry hasn’t always been easy. Sometimes, it’s worked in my favour. But other times, it’s caused me much distress. It’s a sad fact that there will always be some narrow-minded people in the motoring industry who believe that women have no place in it. I’ve received my fair share or spiteful comments, or been rejected in conversation because I was deemed too young or inferior as a woman to talk about cars. I once had to leave a role I loved because my colleague, who happened to be male and my editor, didn’t know how to work with me. It was a great shame – I lost a friend and doubted my own capabilities as a motoring journalist.
What motivated you to keep going?
Thanks to the guidance, support and reassurance of fellow male and female motoring journalists, my family and an organisation I’m now closely affiliated with, I came to realise that it wasn’t me who was in the wrong and I was silly to doubt myself. I once spent an evening looking through my portfolio of achievements – features, news articles and award certificates – to simply remind myself what I was and am capable of. Self-belief and a strong support network are what saved me from giving up on myself.
What do you think we need to do to break down barriers in the workplace?
Equality shouldn’t just be a ‘trend’ and it definitely shouldn’t mean men are now ‘inferior’ to women. Equality means both parties are equal. I also say the same to my female colleagues and friends.
Stop acting like women working in leadership roles and male-dominated industries is an abnormal thing. Yes, it should be celebrated, just as our male counterparts are. But it shouldn’t be surprising – it should be expected. The idea that women can’t perform as well as men is a stereotypical opinion (created by man) hundreds of years ago. It’s irrelevant and should be long forgotten. We’re all human, we all have dreams and our acceptance to achieve these ambitions shouldn’t be dependent on our genitals.
What’s great about being a female in your role?
I feel honoured to work in the motoring industry and I can honestly say I have one of the most amazing jobs. Usually, when I would tell people I road-test new cars and write features for glossy magazines, people would say: “Can you really call that work?” I get to meet so many wonderful people, visit breathtaking places and write about them in my work and I absolutely love it – and this feeling would be no different if I were male. Being a woman in the motoring industry has sometimes worked in my favour – you’re often a talking point for being “one of the few” who have made it into the industry, which definitely gives you a proud feeling and can help you to secure more opportunities as an expert in your field.
Why is “yes she can" important to you?
YesSheCan is a breath of fresh air. All women should know they have what it takes, and the support they need, to make a difference and make their dreams a reality. This is a hub of positivity, empowering women everywhere, of all ages, to go out and be themselves. Anything that celebrates the success of others, is something I want to be a part of.