Beth Paretta is a personal hero of mine. She created the first female forward Indy Racing team and has inspired millions of people, girls and women around the world. Beth claimed a space for women in a very male dominated industry and should be celebrated. Beth proves that you can have huge dreams, accomplish them and change the world at the same time. I got to meet Beth last year at the Indy500 when her racing team made history by having the most women on the team racing in the historic event. Simona De Silvestro drives for Beth’s team and together they continue to show that women can compete in racing at the highest level of the sport. They don’t just race, their work focuses on helping young girls learn about racing and the importance of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering. Math) to their careers and futures. This Sports Illustrated article covers Beth and Simona’s incredible journey.
Below we caught up with Beth to ask her a few questions to help inspire you to go after your dreams.
What’s your name and occupation?
Beth Paretta, CEO and Founder of Paretta Autosport
Where were you born & what’s your nationality?
Born in Connecticut, USA so I am an American of Italian descent.
Has your gender, nationality and place of birth influenced your work and affect your career?
My gender is underrepresented in my current and previous industries: Motorsports, Automotive, Alpine skiing. As an American, it was often a challenge to be recognized for promotions when I worked for a German and a British Company. Eventually I worked for an Italian company and my lineage may have helped slightly. In all cases, being a woman made me the minority and an anomaly. It caused me to work harder to prove my worth and value.
What work have you been the most proud of in the past five years?
I have been most proud of launching my professional racing team with a majority of women on the roster – a first of its kind and a team that made history in the Indianapolis 500 and beyond. Our visibility has helped to inspire young women to pursue STEM education and non-traditional, technical careers.
You are inspiring millions of young girls and women all over the world. Can you speak to the impact that building the first prominent female forward IndyCar racing team has had?
Young girls reach out and are excited to watch racing because they now feel they have someone to ‘root for’. Fathers and grandfathers are excited that their daughters and granddaughters are interested in watching racing for perhaps the first time. Now they have an opportunity to share the experience together. I think the true impact of our hard work will be seen in the years and decades to come.
Have you ever experienced sexism or micro aggressions during your career? If so, how did you navigate those situations?
Yes. There was a time when I had a very busy work schedule with many long weeks of travel with quick turnarounds at home in between. It was during that time that I realized my three male colleagues had stay-at-home partners who could maintain their homes, pick up dry-cleaning, and assist with things like laundry to ease the burden of very busy, demanding logistics. I didn’t have that and asked once for a half day off to be able to catch up and was made to feel like I was lucky to have the job I did. I never asked again but I always knew that ‘equity’ in the workplace wasn’t what it looked like on paper.
Several times in automotive and racing I have been underestimated. I remember being at a large event for a prominent vehicle launch and I was going to take one of the cars out for a drive and when I asked for the keys to the sports car in question, the young man from the fleet company hesitated when he handed them to me and asked, “Wait, can you drive a manual?”
I was the Director of the Brand for a global automotive company and this car was our flagship model of the brand I managed. And yes, I can drive a manual transmission. He wouldn’t have asked a man that question.
What career advice would you give to young girls and women?
Work hard. Know your stuff. Build a network. Seek out mentors. Ask for help, and be helpful to others. It will all come back to you tenfold.
What can men do to be allies to women in the workplace?
Make sure you invite us to the meeting if you want us there. Don’t assume we know we are invited. Take a chance on us, we may surprise you. We can be the hardest working people you know and tend to be collaborative. If you ask us out on a date and we say no, that does not give you license to not be nice to us. In general, being kind to all co-workers is a good first rule in the workplace.
What do you wish you did with your money sooner?
I wished I bought more real estate as investment. Even a small purchase can appreciate and it will have future value. I was lucky that my parents taught me to take advantage of every retirement plan/investment opportunity offered by my employer and I ALWAYS had them take the maximum percentage allowed, especially when I was young. My parents taught me that when you save a percentage of your paycheck you won’t even miss it because you adjust to the new total that you see. They were right.
What other unique ways have you made money outside of your main career?
Selling houses, a few collectable cars, and I sold a business after graduate school. Now, in addition to the race team I earn money by consulting in automotive and motorsports marketing and operations. That helps!
What advice would you give someone looking to break into your field?
Work part time at a race track, with a race team, or with a race series. Anything that can help you get your foot in the door will help you build your network. Get to know people. That advice works across many industries, actually.
If someone reading this wanted to work with you or become your mentee how would they be able to do so?
We will be formalizing the process, but the best way is to send a resume and cover letter to our website at firstname.lastname@example.org. And while I mention that, be sure that you write a unique cover letter when you reach out to a potential employer. We can tell when it is a form letter, of course, and that tells us that you don’t know about us or you don’t really care about your job. So if you don’t, why should we?
How did you accomplish all that you have?
Working hard, helping others, and having some help along the way. People who ‘took a chance on me’ when I may have been a “non-traditional” candidate. I was never risky, of course, but to the status-quo, I seemed different. I proved my ability so it all worked out. You can too.
Any last bit of advice you would give your younger self to help you earn more and thrive in your career?
I have changed careers a few times and that may have hurt my earnings overall. Changing employers as you progress through your career may give your pay a boost and help you move up the ladder – especially if you’re in a job that is stagnant, but changing careers can cost you money. If I had stayed in one channel – whichever one – I would have earned more over time. But, my interests compelled me to try new things. The key though, is that I could afford to make those moves because I always lived within my means – even at my entry-level job after college. Being prudent and sensible with money gives you freedom to do things like travel, change jobs, move house, or try a new hobby. So if that interests you, learn to be smart with your money first. It doesn’t take much; but you start by reducing spending and debt. Start saving today. Save each week. When I decided to leave my corporate job and start my own business, I downsized my home and expenses and saved up so that I would have a safety net. You should always have a safety net of money saved. Build it now, put it in a savings account and don’t touch it. It’s amazing what that will do for your mental health. It’s never too late to build up, or build back that net.