Meet Nora and Marie-Soleil, two uOttawa students driving women forward in motorsports

Faculty of Engineering
International Women’s Day
Student life
Mechanical Engineering
Engineering Design and Teaching Innovation
Nora Jordan driving her racecar.
In the male-dominated realms of motorsports and engineering, two young women at the Faculty of Engineering are defying gender norms and accelerating towards success. Meet Nora Jordan and Marie-Soleil Labelle, two uOttawa engineering students who are making their mark as young women in competitive motorsports and inspiring the next generation of female engineers to follow their passion for speed and innovation.

Nora Rhiannon Jordan is a first-year student in multidisciplinary design, with a specialty in mechanical and electrical engineering. She is the current race captain of the BAJA SAE competitive team at the Faculty of Engineering. The BAJA team had not competed for the past six years, but now that Nora has taken the lead, the team is on track to participate in their first competition this fall. In her free time, she is pursuing her pilot’s license, inspired by her many family members in the Air Force.  

Nora began kart racing in Smith Falls after she finished high school. She networked her way into racing, making connections by washing cars for more established racers.

Marie-Soleil is a third-year mechanical engineering student who felt the need for speed from a very young age. She developed a passion for mechanical systems and racing on her own, not having any family or connections in the field. She began kart racing at age twelve, and just three years later, made the jump to racing cars.  

Like Nora, Marie-Soleil broke into the sport by making her presence known at her local racetrack. An employee at her racing league noticed that she was always at the track and invited her to attend a testing session. Now, both women have worked their way up to the driver’s seat and committed themselves to the sport.  

Nora and Marie-Soleil balance their demanding racing schedules with full-time engineering studies. Nora admits that juggling school and motorsports can be “a lot” but she likes to be busy: “I don’t really see it as work.” 

Nora Jordan
Student voices

“Women in motorsports, as a community, is quite small but very tight knit. Because we’re so few, we truly all want each other to succeed.”

Nora Rhiannon Jordan

— First year student in multidisciplinary design

Although trends show that women are increasingly interested in engineering in recent years, motorsport racing remains a male-dominated sport. Concerns for women contemplating entry into the sport range from the scarcity of role models to gender biases and stereotypes. Nora and Marie-Soleil share that they have experienced these struggles as women in the sport; however, they have also found a vibrant and supportive community of women racers.

“It is still very much a male-dominated sport. Last summer, I was racing in a team of 50 drivers and only four of us were girls,” says Nora. Similarly, Marie-Soleil is currently one of the only two women in the Nissan Sentra Cup Series, the other being Valérie Limoges.

“I do notice comments on social media alluding to the fact that I am a woman whenever I lose a race,” says Marie-Soleil. But instead of letting them get to her, she lets those kinds of comments fuel her: “It motivates me to prove them wrong.”  

She also notes that when working on group projects at school, her knowledge and expertise are often not immediately trusted, because she is a woman.  

The scarcity of women in motorsports means that the women who are in the sport are often placed under a spotlight in a way that their male counterparts are not.

“As a woman, you have to be careful how you present yourself.”  

She shares that while a man on her team can have an off day and visibly take out his anger, she feels that stereotypes about women’s emotionality lead her to keep her own frustration to herself. She comments on the pressure to “be courteous and always keep a smile on your face.”

Both girls affirm that “once we put our helmet on, we’re all the same and it’s all about skills.”  

They uphold the importance of standing up for yourself and not allowing yourself to be pushed around. 

Marie-Soleil Labelle
Student voices

“There is something for everyone in motorsports: it is not only for mechanical engineers.”

Marie-Soleil Labelle

— Third year student in mechanical engineering

Although they have endured hardships, Nora and Marie-Soleil have also found a welcoming and supportive community among other women in motorsports. “Women in motorsports, as a community, is quite small but very tight knit,” says Nora. “Because we’re so few, we truly all want each other to succeed.”

“Girls supporting girls,” confirms Marie-Soleil.  

Both racers emphatically encourage any young women interested in motorsports to join them on the track. Marie-Soleil notices more and more young girls who are interested in the sport. “I now see programs and events that are specifically for girls in the field, and if it’s something that you’re curious about, I definitely encourage you to try it,” she says. “There is something for everyone in motorsports: it is not only for mechanical engineers. A lot of engineering goes into optimizing performance. There are opportunities in computer science and tech, for example.”

Nora’s advice to women and girls who are looking to get involved in the sport is to make meaningful connections, find friendships with other girls in the sport, and always pursue the opportunities that feel right to you.  

“Surround yourself with people who support you,” she says.