How Nascar driver Julia Landauer says you can thrive in a male-dominated industry

Julia Landauer, driver of the #54 Toyota Racing Toyota, sits in her car during practice for the K&N Pro Series West NAPA Auto Parts 150 at Kern County Raceway Park on April 2, 2016, in Bakersfield, California.
Jonathan Moore | Getty Images

Julia Landauer has a track record of breaking down gender barriers.

The 27-year-old New York City native has led the way in two race car championships. In 2015, she was the first woman to win a Limited Sportsman Late Model division race at the Motor Mile Speedway. And in June this year, she was the first female driver to lead a competition lap in APC 200 at Canada's Jukasa Motor Speedway.

Landauer also got her bachelor's degree from Stanford University in science, technology, and society, though women are historically underrepresented in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics).

She recently sat down with Grow to share her tips on how to flourish in a field where you're a minority.

Grow: You keep succeeding in male-dominated fields. Was that by accident or design?

Julia Landauer: By the time I was 10, my parents were looking for an activity where I could be competitive against boys. My mom had always been taught to be a nice girl, so they didn't want the same kind of upbringing for their own children. I liked racing, so we ended up choosing go-karts. The nice thing about machines is that they don't know whether you're a girl or a boy.

From that early age, what kind of life lessons did racing teach you?

It taught me about taking ownership and responsibility. It's just you and the go-kart, and even if the car isn't perfect, you do everything you can to make it work. … Guys tend to race you a little harder, because there is still a stigma about being beaten by a girl. But I'm my own biggest critic about on-track performance. Anything I can learn to do better, I will.

Nascar racer Julia Landauer.
Courtesy Someday Sarah Photography

What was the best career advice you got along the way?

You can't be perfect at everything. So try a lot of different subjects. … Find something you excel at, and then get a little better at it every day.

Do those lessons carry over into more typical office environments?

I have never worked a traditional job … but I think many of the lessons carry over. You have to learn how to be authentic to yourself, while fighting for what you need. And women have to put extra work in, to make sure the team respects you.

With such a nontraditional career, what did you learn about the financial side of the business?

It's an expensive sport, with a high barrier to entry. It's a pay-to-play field. My family supported me financially for a while, and got me as far as they could. But the last few years I have put together different branded partnerships, and done corporate advising and motivational speaking.

Find something you excel at, and then get a little better at it every day.
Julia Landauer
Nascar driver

What financial lessons have you taken away from your own journey so far?
From a financial standpoint, women often don't negotiate enough or ask for a high enough number in compensation. So you really have to do your homework. Understanding my own worth was something I have had to work towards, and my agent and manager have helped me with that. My mom tried to instill that in me too, even from a young age: Always ask for more.

What do you tell those young girls who are entering industries where women are scarce?

Remind yourself of your accomplishments and what you've learned. You deserve to be there, even though women often feel like outsiders in male-dominated fields.

Also, find key allies with whom you can discuss ideas, and ask for feedback and be your best self. My mom always told me, "Don't expect to be given what you deserve, but you deserve whatever you can get."

How do you handle the fear and risk of being in a race car at those kinds of speeds?

Imagine being strapped tightly into a cocoon: You're going full-throttle down a straightaway, the car is vibrating and you're feeling the wind. You're approaching a corner, so many factors are coming at you, and your reaction time has to be so quick. Even being one foot off from where you should be could make a big difference in how the car handles that corner.

It's satisfying and scary and exhilarating all at the same time. You know things can go wrong, and you know you can crash, but you just have to use that fear to propel you forward.

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