BREAKING INTO THE BOYS' CLUB
ONE WOMAN'S QUEST TO HEAR MORE FEMALE VOICES IN MOTORSPORTS
“If boys do it and girls don’t, I want to do it 10 times harder,” laughs Powersport Announcer and Video Host Jacqui Van Ham.
Growing up in rural Illinois surrounded by boys may have groomed her for both a love of motorcycles and a fierce determination not to be left out of the boys’ club.
To her, motorcycles offer independence, allowing her to do what she wants, when she wants – and that’s an attitude she’s chosen to live by, both on and her off of her bike.
Van Ham got her first taste of that thrilling independence at the age of 11. She jokes that her dad made the questionable decision to get her a motorbike, but something makes us think she left him with little choice… When she hopped on for her very first ride, she rode for a total of 27 minutes before a rather spectacular crash totaled the bike. That may have put her riding days on hold for a while, but in her own words “that was all I needed to catch the bug.”
A true aficionado, Van Ham devoured cycle trader mags memorizing specs and becoming ever more obsessed with vintage bikes with all their unique quirks, character, and style. She eventually saved enough from her day job to buy her own vintage bike and do some touring in her early twenties. She completed a lap around the U.S. and two solo tours in Europe.
What she didn’t know at the time was that through feeding her passion she was also preparing for a profession and paving the road for other women to follow in her footsteps. Tales of her touring adventures spread through the motorsports community, even getting picked up by a few media outlets, and ultimately leading to a speaking opportunity at a large industry event.
“I was so proud that this company took the leap of faith to pull me in when there were hardly any women out there representing brands… They were genuinely floored that I showed up and knew what I was talking about.”
That was a turning point for Van Ham.
Yes, the greasy tools, illustrious history, and high octane badassery that all come with motorcycles is part of the attraction, but it was the long-standing boys’ club holding the keys to the industry that really sparked her determination.
“Women make up for 19% of bike owners, but their voices aren’t being heard,” Van Ham laments. “There’s women who do podium and paddock interviews, and those women do a heck of a job… but I wanted the job the men always have.”
Not only did she want to see herself in that role, but she wanted to see other women like her in those roles too.
Van Ham continued to book jobs and build a reputation in the industry, but she would not be satisfied until she was sitting in the booth with her voice ringing though stands and television screens calling dirt and flat track races with the boys.
In 2016, her persistence and patience finally paid off when she landed her first race announcing gig.
Today, she’s still one of only a few women doing race announcing and commentary in the United States, but she sees a change in the tides with more women coming into motorsports as fans and riders as well as professionals. “We’ve got more work to do to push on through, but I’m really proud to be part of that push and I hope that I’m helping push more women forward as well,” says Van Ham. “The more that women are out here represented, the more there will be encouragement and support and the more women will be normally seen in these roles.”
“My most favorite is honestly when people come up to me and tell me that I’ve inspired them to do their own adventures and chase their own dreams.” Her ultimate hope is that she’s “helping more women push [against gender boundaries] as well.”
“I’m grateful to do what I love and pursue my passion.”
“I am heard.”
Voices like Jacqui Van Ham’s inspire us to speak up, step out and get after it. We hope it inspires you too.
Speak up and let us know what you’re passionate about @VELO_US on Instagram.
And if you need another shot of inspiration, check out the story behind Nosotro Tequila. Not only will it make you reconsider throwing away those ideas you scribbled on a crumpled cocktail napkin, you may also feel the need to make a margarita.