March 2008 Woman: Beaulah Schoeman

 

Beaulah Schoeman is the only woman in the world to head up a National Motorsport Federation. Here she is seen with the FIM Management Council at the 2004 FIM Congress in Paris.

Beaulah
Schoeman is the only woman in the world to head up a National
Motorsport Federation. Here she is seen with the FIM Management Council
at the 2004 FIM Congress in Paris.

Beaulah
Schoeman was passionate about Law until ill health got in the way of
her dreams and she had to change her career path. At the time she did
not know that her destiny and success would come from a sport she
loved, and today she is the only woman in the world to head up a
National Motorsport Federation that governs automobile, karting and
motorcycle sport.

Beaulah’s
passion for Motorsport has seen her climb the corporate ladder from
Secretary at Sports Car Club (SCC) of South Africa in 1966 to Managing
Director of Motorsport South Africa, a position she currently holds
after being appointed in February 1995, when the Automobile Association
of South Africa (AASA) relinquished the sporting powers to MSA in
February 1995.

With
only one National Motorsport Federation in the country, Beaulah
certainly has her work cut out but she never shies away from
challenges. Her efforts have also been recognised internationally; she
is the only South African – male or female – to serve on the World
Council of an International Motorsport Federation

Beaulah
has been a shining example for many women, showing that if you’re
passionate about what you do, and are committed to excellence, you will
be successful, no matter what obstacles stand in your way.

Beaulah has been working in motorsport for 42 years and she continues to remain passionate about growing the sport across both genders.

Beaulah
has been working in motorsport for 42 years and she continues to remain
passionate about growing the sport across both genders.

 
Her
42 years of work in the male dominated Motorsport industry has seen her
collecting many tributes including the State President’s Silver Medal
Award for Sport Administration in 1998 and twice being a finalist for
the Shoprite Checkers/SABC 2 Woman of the Year in the Sport Category.

Beaulah
looks up to Nelson Mandela and Mother Teresa as her role models, and
she herself possesses the leadership skills and humanitarian qualities
that make her an inspirational individual. Her favourite sports stars
include Natalie du Toit and Shaun Pollock, and when she does have spare
time, she enjoys watching cricket, rugby, athletics, and swimming.

We’re
in awe of Beaulah’s ability to endure life’s ups and downs and her down
to earth nature, which has seen her build many lasting relationships
which have contributed to the growth of motorsport in South Africa.

Introducing gsport’s March 2008 Woman, the irrepressible Beaulah Schoeman!

 Beaulah, when were you appointed Managing Director of Motorsport South Africa?

I
was appointed as Managing Director in February 1995 when the Automobile
Association of South Africa (AASA) relinquished the sporting powers and
MSA was registered as a Section 21 company.

Are you the first woman to hold this position in South Africa?

Yes,
but bear in mind that there is only one National Motorsport Federation
in the country. I am, however, the only woman in the world to head up a
National Motorsport Federation that governs automobile, karting and
motorcycle sport. I am proud but also appreciate the opportunity and
confidence the other Directors had in entrusting me with the challenge
– both from a company as well as a sporting perspective.

Describe the journey that saw you rise to become Managing Director of MSA?

I
had to abandon my dreams of becoming a lawyer due to ill health
(cancer) that involved a number of operations before the end of my
first year at University. I attended a Business Academy where I
obtained diplomas for financial administration, business management and
secretarial functions.

Because
of my love for legal issues, I joined a legal firm as a Secretary but
realised after less than a year that there was no scope/future in the
work I was doing. I joined the Sports Car Club of South Africa (SCC) on
1 February 1966 as Secretary, and was later promoted to Manager.

During
my 17 years with SCC I officiated at 15 S.A. Formula One Grands Prix, 2
Motorcycle Grands Prix and numerous other International and local
motorsport events. I left the SCC at the end of 1982 and started as
Assistant Manager of AASA Motorsport in January 1983.

I
was promoted to the position of Assistant General Manager and went on
to become General Manager – a position I held until February 1995 when
AASA relinquished the sporting powers to MSA and I was appointed as MD
of MSA.

Adv. Francesco Zerbi (President of FIM) and Beaulah Schoeman (President of the FIM World Commission of Women in Motorcycling) sign the Brighton Declaration (June 2006) in Geneva.

Adv.
Francesco Zerbi (President of FIM) and Beaulah Schoeman (President of
the FIM World Commission of Women in Motorcycling) sign the Brighton
Declaration (June 2006) in Geneva.

 
Where does your love for motorsport come from?

I
enjoyed watching motorsport prior to joining SCC, but developed an
absolute love and passion for the sport after only a few months of
being at SCC. MSA governs 46 different categories of motorsport, each
one being unique and interesting, and motorsport is truly (at least for
me!) one of the most vibrant, challenging, and exciting disciplines of
sport.

Motorsport
is known to be male dominated, how did your male peers respond to your
appointment and how much have their attitudes changed since then?

Until
the mid eighties, only men held senior positions within motorsport –
both in administration and at events. When I was appointed as General
Manager of AASA Motorsport, my decisions and opinions expressed by me
regarding sporting issues, were often challenged.

However, as time passed and the males who doubted me realised that I actually understood
motorsport, these ‘challenges’ changed to ‘discussions’, and started
asking me for my views. The fact that MSA started as a company from a
zero base and that the company – and motorsport – grew from strength to
strength since 1995, further served to prove that women can be as
capable as men – both in business and in a male dominated sport.

What
do you enjoy most about being MD of Motorsport South Africa, and what
have been some of your highlights since being appointed?

I
enjoy seeing the growth and stability in the company and in the sport,
as well as the interaction with competitors, promoters, organisers and
officials – both locally and internationally. South African competitors
have proved over many decades that they rank amongst the best in the
world and we have had many World Champions in several categories of the
sport. Their achievements – as well as the achievements of competitors
at national and grass roots level, always make me realise how fortunate
I am to be part of this wonderful discipline of sport.

There have been many highlights since my appointment – both locally and internationally (one prior to becoming MD):

Beaulah with former Sports Minister, the late Steve Tshwete, at the Opening of the 1998 FIM Congress hosted in Cape Town.

Beaulah with former Sports Minister, the late Steve Tshwete, at the Opening of the 1998 FIM Congress hosted in Cape Town.

 1992:
elected Chairperson of the FIA Confederation of African Countries in
Motorsport, and served as a member of the FIA Rally Commission – the
only women to have held a position on this Commission. (I resigned from
the Commission in 1998 because of my increased involvement with the
FIM).

1995:
elected President of the FIM Promotions and Financial Commission – the
first female to hold such a title in the 91 year history of the FIM.

1997: received the National Sports Council’s (NSC) Protea Award as "Sport Administrator of the Year"

1997: Finalist – Sport Category – Shoprite/SABC 2 Women of the Year

1997: Finalist – Lebone: Women on the Move

1998 (to-date): elected President of the African Motorcycle Union (one of the FIM’s 6 Continental Unions).

1998:
Organisation and hosting FIM World Motorcycle Congress in Cape Town and
being able to showcase our country to some 500 delegates from around
the globe

1998
(to-date): became a member of the FIM Management Council. (I am the
only South African – male or female – to serve on the World Council of
an International Motorsport Federation).

1998: State President’s Silver Medal Award – Sport Administration

2005 (to-date): appointed President of the FIM Women in Motorcycling Commission

 2007: Finalist – Sport Category – Shoprite/SABC 2 Women of the Year

(The
FIA is the International Federation for Automobile Sport and the FIM is
the International Motorcycle Federation – sport and leisure/touring
)
 

Beaulah with Government Dignitaries and Sponsors of the 1998 FIM Congress.

Beaulah with Government Dignitaries and Sponsors of the 1998 FIM Congress.

 
What goals have you set for yourself in 2008?

My
goals for 2008 are to attend more events this year than I was able to
do last year because of my workload, and to ensure that the two events
to be hosted and organised by MSA in 2008, namely the FIM Motocross
Grand Prix at Nelspruit and the FIM Motorcycle World Congress in
Durban, will be successful not only for MSA and for motorsport, but
also for South Africa:

How do you deal with challenges that come your way as a woman in sports administration?

I
believe that nothing is impossible and that if you love and are
committed to what you are doing, you will overcome all challenges and
obstacles. I firstly make sure that I have all the information and
facts relating to the challenge at hand, and then consider all
possibilities to ensure that the best – and fairest resolution to all
involved – is found.

What is the best career advice you’ve been given?

Believe
in yourself, trust your instincts, love what you are doing, and never
give up. Also, never get mean – get even, but making sure that the
sport is always the ultimate winner.

The inaugural meeting of the MSA Women in Motorsport Panel held in August 2006.

The inaugural meeting of the MSA Women in Motorsport Panel held in August 2006.

How do you feel about the state of women’s Motorsport in South Africa?

I
am extremely excited and optimistic. I persuaded the MSA Board to
create a "MSA Women in Motorsport Panel" in 2006 – catering for all
categories of motorsport. We adapted the Strategy & Business Plan I
developed for my FIM Women in Motorcycling Commission for the Panel to
include car and karting categories. Our Panel does not only focus on
involving women as competitors, but also training them as officials and
administrators and the success of the Panel has been phenomenal.

The
number of women competitors increased from 219 in 2006 to 502 at the
end of 2007, and the number of officials and administrators increased
from 164 to 288. Emphasis is also placed on involving women from
Previously Disadvantaged Communities.

An
extremely successful "Women in Motorsport" day was held in five
Provinces on National Women’s Day in 2007 and the Panel plans on this
year’s event being even bigger. Two new women’s classes were introduced
in 2007 and both have been so successful, competitive and well
supported that they were granted S.A. Championship status from this
year.

gsport strives to celebrate femininity. What role does it play in your life?

Femininity
is a gift and should be appreciated. It plays a very important role and
I am not prepared to give up my femininity simply because I am involved
in a sport that is a male dominated sport. And what can be more fun
than testing a new perfume or trying a new hairstyle?

Who are some of the women you admire and why?

I
admire all women who have faith in their own ability and who always do
the best they possibly can, irrespective of whether it is in sport,
business or their everyday lives. In particular, I admire women with
disabilities in sport who have the determination to compete in the
sport they love notwithstanding their disabilities – and thereby
inspiring other women with disabilities to do the same.

FIM Women in Motorcycling Panel - Conference Meetings - Geneva

The inaugural meeting of the MSA Women in Motorsport Panel held in August 2006.

 
What is your advice to women who are struggling to find their true passion in life?

Never underestimate yourself – analyse yourself and take time to think what really makes you happy. If you are happy in what you are doing, you will automatically become totally committed and be successful.

Aside from motorsport, which other spectator sports do you enjoy?

Aside from motorsport, I also enjoy watching cricket, rugby, athletics and swimming.

Who are your favourite sports stars?

It
is impossible for me to name my favourite motorsport star, as there are
dozens – male and female – who have excelled both internationally and
locally. In the other disciplines athletes such as Penny Heyns, Natalie
du Toit, Oscar Pistorius, Shaun Pollock, Mark Boucher, Makhaya Ntini,
Brian Habana, and John Smit immediately come to mind …

FIM Women in Motorcycling Commission Members.

FIM Women in Motorcycling Commission Members.

 
How do you keep fit?

I walk as much as possible, and eat a very healthy diet.

What inspires you?

Waking
up to the start of a new day, looking at the beauty of nature and
appreciating how fortunate I am to be alive – and to be able to do what
I enjoy.

Who are your role models?

First
and foremost undoubtedly the greatest icon in the world: "Madiba" –
former President Nelson Mandela. Also Mother Theresa who devoted her
entire life to helping others – without ever having expected anything
in return.

What makes you proud to be a South African?

Every
time I hear our National Anthem, see our National flag – especially on
aircraft at an overseas airport, watch South African competitors or
athletes competing, and when I look at the magnificent beauty of our
country and wildlife.

What is your greatest ambition?

To
always remain honest, transparent and fair – and hopefully to be an
inspiration to other women who may be apprehensive about becoming
involved in a male dominated sport.


 

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