Posted: 4 Min ReadDiversity & Inclusion

Everyone Has a Responsibility to Better the Balance and Better the World

For International Women's Day, Francesca G. shares her story of how active encouragement and allyship made a positive difference in her life when her personal interests conflicted with traditional gender roles and expectations.

I started riding motorcycles at a very young age thanks to my parents who both had a love for the sport. I grew up going to track days in Northern and Southern California to watch both my mom and my dad race. Waiting patiently for them to come back from their session, I would dream of racing someday myself. When my mom rode in and parked her bike, I climbed all over it and pretended I was a racer, too. 

My mom and dad encouraged me to ride, and so I did. They bought me my first bike – a red Honda dirt bike – and they would take me riding at local trails all through middle and high school. I spent the weekends riding trails with my Dad because my mom preferred the street. Dad and I would tear it up. 

I remember one instance where Dad and I set out on a blue trail (intermediate level) – something I had recently worked my way up to at that point in time. I was doing just fine, until, unknown to him, the trail had a section where it turned into a black diamond (advanced level). We had no choice but to keep riding. In a split second, he had made it over a section of boulders. Looking back, he told me he was so nervous I would freak out, stop my bike, and quit. I didn't though. I had no time to react and rode right over those boulders. We both stopped at the top to catch our breath and gave each other a shocked look. He was so proud and absolutely beaming! He asked me to stop for a photo to remember the day I conquered my first black diamond.

My dad has this celebratory photo saved on his phone, and pinned on the "memories wall" at his house.
My dad has this celebratory photo saved on his phone, and pinned on the "memories wall" at his house.

As I entered the workforce, specifically into the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion space, I realized that I had been blessed with incredible allies my entire life. My parents instilled a drive in me to learn everything there was about motorcycles, and let me grow despite the risks that come with motorsports. They did not treat me differently or discourage me from motorsports just because I was a girl. 

I've found many more allies in the world of motorsports as well. I met my boyfriend Tyler while out for a ride, and have met countless other friends this way. I'm part of a small group of local enthusiasts who come from all walks of life. We call ourselves the A.M.G.'s (American Motorcycle Gods) as a joke. There are 127 of us. We ride street and we race at the track together. I've never met such an incredible group of allies before – especially because they encourage growth and learning, no matter if you're male or female. We all share the same passion for motorsports, and we all like to joke that your bike doesn't know or care if you're male or female. We just saddle up and have fun.

My mom and I are some of the women that ride in the A.M.G motorcycle group.
My mom and I are some of the women that ride in the A.M.G motorcycle group.

They did not treat me differently or discourage me from motorsports just because I was a girl.

I've experienced plenty of reactions in and out of the workplace when sharing my passion. Some people think it's the coolest thing ever, and some people share how motorcycles freak them out and they could never ride. (They could if they wanted to... anyone can! I always encourage signing up for a motorcycle safety course to get started.) Things aren't always so positive though. I've received negative reactions like many women before me. For example, I've had a male motorcyclist look me up and down, look at my bike, then back to me and ask if my boyfriend let me borrow my own bike. I've even had other women look me up and down as well. I've had people, innocently enough, ask if I ride on the back of my partner's bike instead of my own.

In these moments I try my best to turn these comments into conversations – as I do in my professional work. Instead of disgust and an immediate negative reaction, I try my hardest to work on unpacking statements like these – to work with people to see things in a different light. To take these ugly, discouraging moments and help the other person take their first step on their allyship journey so they too can be like my parents: active allies in support of a better balance and a better world. That's what we all need to do.

My story is just one of many from women around the world showing how gender roles and gender bias affect us in our daily lives. These stories are important to hear so that we can all learn how to be better allies to each other. 

Everyone is responsible. Allyship, and International Women's Day, belongs to all groups, collectively, everywhere.

Addressing these situations when they happen is something we can all do, today, tomorrow, every day – not just in honor of International Women's Day on March 8. Everyone is responsible for building an inclusive culture at work, at home, at the track, or wherever else life takes you. Allyship, and International Women's Day, belong to all groups, collectively, everywhere. I encourage you to think about how you can start to be a better ally. How can you actively step up and encourage allyship today? How can you support someone to follow their passion? Teach someone to grow despite life's obstacles? Stand up to sexism in and out of the workplace?

The opportunities are endless. You have to start somewhere, like my parents did with me. 

ABOUT IWD 2019: 

International Women's Day (March 8) is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity.

International Women's Day (IWD) has occurred for well over a century, with the first​ ​IWD gathering in 1911 supported by over a million people in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland. Prior to this the​ Socialist Party of America, United Kingdom's Suffragists and Suffragettes, and further groups campaigned for women's equality.

Today, IWD belongs to all groups collectively everywhere.

IWD is not country, group, or organization specific.​

Make IWD your day - everyday.

www.internationalwomensday.com

#IWD2019 #BalanceforBetter

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About the Author

Francesca Garofani

Senior HR Specialist

Francesca is a Senior HR Specialist at Symantec. She grew up in the SF Bay Area, and finished her undergrad in Italy/The Netherlands. On the weekends, she goes traveling with her boyfriend, and still rides motorcycles with her family and friends.

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