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ProFormance and WIMNA: Joining Forces for the Win!

ProFormance is partnering with Women in Motorsports North America to make sport driving more welcoming to women. Come celebrate June 26-27.

It’s doubtful that many motorsport institutions have been as encouraging to women as ProFormance Racing School. Women now have a high profile both in the driving classes and at lapping events. But there’s always more to do, and now ProFormance and Women in Motorsports North Amerca (WIMNA) are combining their efforts and expertise to bring more women into the nation’s fastest-growing sport.

June 26-27: Don’t miss Women Setting the Pace

Every year ProFormance stages an event that has become a valued tradition: Women Setting the Pace, one or both days event at Pacific Raceways focused on advocating for women in motorsports. This year will see WINMA participating as well. The event covers two days: June 26 and 27th. Check the calendar to book.

Originally the event was to help draw more women into the sport. Things have changed. “We have tons of women drivers now,” says ProFormance co-founder Donna Porada-Kitch. “We’re not doing women’s day because we don’t have women drivers, we’re doing it as a celebration to show how far we’ve come, how many women are driving.”

“If you show up you’ll see 60 or 70 women each day. I know them all, but they don’t all know each other. This is a chance for them to meet other women with the same passion, to make connections, network, have fun.

“Some only drive once a year – at this event. Others drive other places, but this is the one event they don’t miss!”

A full schedule

The Pacific NW Region Porsche Club of America will also be involved in Women Setting the Pace this year. The event will feature some new guest speakers as well: WIMNA co-founder Beth Paretta, WIMNA Executive Director Cindy Sisson, and Hannah Greememeier, a driver on the team The Heart of Racing. You can also expect the attractions that have added to the event’s popularity: ride-alongs, exotic cars, catered lunch, and swag.

WIMNA: supporting women with drive

The genesis of WIMNA was a collaboration between motorsport entrepreneur Beth Paretta and Lyn St. James, former first women named rookie of the year at the Indy 500, at the age of 45, with 5 Indy 500 racing starts. Lyn, a long-time supporter of women in racing and inspirational figure for the cause, was head of the Women’s Sports Foundation.  They agreed that it was time to start a foundation to promote the role of women in racing. WIMNA was born, and Cindy Sisson, who had advocated for women as Marketing Director of the LPGA, became Executive Director. The organization, a 501c3 nonprofit, is dedicated to creating opportunities for women in motorsport by fostering mentorship, advocacy, education and growth.

ProFormance: women welcome since the beginning

Donna Porada-Kitch and Lyn St. James

More than twenty years ago at a Porsche event, Donna and her husband, ProFormance Chief Instructor Don Kitch, Jr., noticed that all the men were driving, and all the women were standing around.

Says Donna: “Don told the dealership salespeople that if they got women involved in the sport, they’d be buying cars along with the men. That’s what got us going.”

Lyn St. James likes to say that “men show up, but women feel they need to be invited.”  Don and Donna decided that they wanted women to feel that it’s okay to participate actively at the raceway.

The number of women signing up for courses and continuing in performance driving has gone up dramatically over the years. Their special women’s day — Women Setting the Pace — is now a two-day event that draws women from far-flung parts of the country.

The Mission: more than just driving

Cindy Sisson. WIMNA executive director
Cindy Sisson, WIMNA Executive Director

“What I want to do is educate the industry, let women know that they can have a career in motorsport,” says Cindy. “They can be a mechanic, a driver, or work in sponsorship or PR.”  

It’s worth noting that male-bashing is not on the agenda. Men are invited to do everything at Women Setting the Pace — everything but drive. They are invited to give their support.

“If we didn’t have Don on our team, we wouldn’t succeed,” says Donna. “We need the Dons of the world to stand up and say, ‘I love my wife, I love what she’s doing, and I want to share the love with other women in the industry.’” Cindy adds, “Our intent is not to change the industry. It is to grow the industry. It’s important make women feel included.”  

A partnership for change

The synergy between ProFormance and WIMNA began last November at Women With DRIVE III, the annual WIMNA summit. Donna attended the event and was inspired by the energy she felt there. Since WIMNA didn’t have any activities on the West Coast, Donna and Cindy decided that the next Women Setting the Pace was a good opportunity to join forces. “We’re coming together to advocate for, advance, and educate women that they can be in motorsports,” says Cindy. The two organizations benefit each other with support, mentoring, and their social media presence. Another goal, Cindy explains, is to invite new people to the table, including CEOs from local businesses and major local corporations.

In addition, WIMNA’s participation enhances the Annual ProFormance event’s role as a model for other motorsport organizations that want to support women around the country.

To book one of the days at Women Setting the Pace this June, check the ProFormance calendar for June 26-27.

And if you’re new to sport driving but are considering attending the event, Donna has some advice for you: ”Just be present, let it happen. Don’t think about what you’ll be doing in three hours. Before you know it, you’re going to be doing it, and you’re going to want to come back!”

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