When I asked Catherine Bond Muir, CEO and co-founder of the all-female open-wheel W Series, what she was looking to most about the season-opening round in Miami alongside the Formula One Grand Prix, her answer was simple: “I love a party.” But by the time we ended the chat, it became very clear that there would be little time for Bond Muir to indulge in the high life — Miami is going to be the series’ biggest and most important race yet.
“What is happening now is just off the charts in comparison to any race that happened last year,” Bond Muir said. “I mean, it is like we’ve lifted the lid off a box, and there’s every single explosion going. The demands on everyone’s time are just immense.”
The W Series is only in its third season, but it’s been on a fast track to the top. Its first season in 2019 put it on the map, but a select few events as an F1 support series race in 2021 really brought all eyes on the women competing for a championship — and the money in brings. Now, W Series is only competing during F1 weekends, and the profile of the sport is only going to grow, and the fact that America will be playing host to W Series twice is only all the better in Bond Muir’s eyes.
“I think unquestionably America is going to be at some point in the future our largest audience,” Bond Muir said. “There’s so much interest. I think America is very, very good at supporting women’s sport.”
That interest in women’s sport is a big reason why W Series actually got off the ground, Bond Muir told me. She first pitched the idea of an all-female racing series in 2015, but countless people told her it would never work: No one watches women’s sports.
But by the W Series’ first season in 2019, that was starting to change, especially in America. Professional series like the Canadian Women’s Hockey League and the National Women’s Soccer League began to highlight the fact that women’s sports were not only competitive but were a fast-growing market, and the 2019 Women’s World Cup only accelerated that interest in North America. It was a prime time to introduce an all-female racing series to the world.
“That was the first major event that people across the world watched in respect of women’s sport,” Bond Muir said. “I think that we came out absolutely at the right year.”
Establishing the series, though, wasn’t Bond Muir’s only concern at the time; she was also adjusting to life as a new mother and coming to terms with the unique demands on her time that resulted.
“I do not agree with the premise that if you lean in, you can have it all,” she said, referring to a 2013 book that argues women can be successful at both home and work.
“I do not spend enough time with my son,” Bond Muir added. “I constantly feel guilty. I am missing my son’s ninth birthday because I’m in Miami. These are things that don’t sit well with me and upset me. But you have to make call and a balance.
“My husband’s flying back early from Miami to make sure that he’s there. We are married and we live together, but we completely co-parent equally. So he is a fantastic father to Hamish. And I could only do this I think successfully because I have so much support at home.”
Bond Muir also pointed out that she recognizes the privilege her position as CEO affords her. When her son was born, she was also able to hire a nanny that has been with the family ever since, allowing both Bond Muir and her husband to work while also providing stability for their son at home.
But that also has changed Bond Muir’s attitude toward running a company. She noted that she’s allowed for a flexible work schedule for the parents at W Series, allowing them to take ample time for family activities while still succeeding at work. In addition, she added, “we’ve developed policies on IVF, on miscarriages, on menopause, as well as obviously maternity leave.
“I said we need a fertility treatment policy, and I was given a draft, and the draft said, oh, you’ve got to go to your manager to ask for time off. And I said, what? We don’t have many men working here, but what happened? You’re not going to go to a male boss and ask for time off. We’ve got to have trust in those situations. Our policy is, if you want to take time off for it, you are allowed that. And it’s not holiday, you just take time off, and you don’t need to speak to people. Because I mean, I know, I’ve been there, and it’s incredibly personal. And actually you don’t necessarily want people to know what you are doing at that particular point in time. So, it is just treating people like human beings, I think.”
That attitude is likely to help both W Series and motorsport as a whole as the series grows. When I asked for her longterm plan for W Series, Bond Muir responded, “Obviously world domination,” though her more sincere answer was that she hopes the sport will become internationally recognized outside of the motorsport circles in which it currently exists. When I asked for her personal goals, she was equally honest: “Sleep. Lower my stress levels. I’d like to genuinely spend more time with my family.”
But it’s the promise that keeps her pushing forward, something Bond Muir illustrated with the following anecdote:
“It was at the end of our first season in 2019, when we had our British race. And we had thousands of people coming down to our paddock. We had our own paddock,” she said. “And it was like a light bulb moment of, oh my God, people actually love W Series. It was full of families, and there were loads of kids there. And the kids were looking at our drivers and they wanted to be with the drivers. They wanted to be taking photographs. And it was that moment of, oh, people are going to support and follow us.
“If I look back to 2019, we’re way, way ahead of where I thought it was going to be.”
And Miami, Bond Muir believes, will only continue setting W Series on that path.