FOR some, motorsport is a man’s world.

But for young journalist Helena Hicks, it is her absolute world.

The 19-year-old’s writing career has escalated quickly since she left Colchester County High School for Girls last year.

Her greatest achievement to date is being the third woman in history to win a prestigious award for young motorsport journalists.

Helena, who was from Colchester but lives in London, moved to the high school for sixth form, after sitting her GCSEs at The Stanway School.

She said: “I did French, English Literature, Geography, and Philosophy and Ethics. I have been really lucky as since the age of 14 I knew what I wanted to do, and I took the steps to make sure I was able to get the best start possible. The school were really supportive and helpful.”

Helena fell in love with motorsport as a child, but says she quickly discovered she was not a dab hand in science or maths.

However, determined to put her love of writing to use, she ran the sports section of the high school’s newsletter.

In April 2016 she set up a blog for her writing, which was spotted by the deputy editor of Autosport magazine and she now writes regularly for them.


She is also a press officer for the Michelin Clio Cup Series, and is in her first year of a journalism degree at City University in London.

“I had grown up watching motorsport,” she said. “My oldest memories are going into my parents’ bedroom and they had the Australian Grand Prix on.

“By the time I was 12 I was probably more interested in it than my dad. It quickly became more than just racing.

“People say it’s just cars going around in circles, but I look at the race strategies and how the team present themselves.”

Unfortunately Helena still receives unwelcome comments from some who read her articles.

She said: “I get a lot of comments from people who don’t know me. I do receive quite a bit of sexism, it’s always ‘what do you know about sport? You’re a woman’.

“Unfortunately that attitude is still so widespread, in journalism it’s still a man’s world.

“If we try and do things that are a bit different you are either shouted down or told you aren’t as good as a man.”

Despite the criticism, writing and motorsport remain her two biggest passions. Her dream career would be to move up into an editorial role at Autosport, or become a press officer for Formula One.

She said: “Friends of mine have part time jobs and they really don’t enjoy them, whereas there isn’t a day I don’t come out of work with a smile on my face, because I know I’m so lucky.”

Last year she won the Sir William Lyons Award for young motor journalists. It made her the third woman in the awards’ 50 year history to win.

She said: “That was probably my biggest achievement to date as I had only been writing for about nine months.

“Suddenly journalists in the industry knew who I was, it inspired me to work even harder.”

Another of her favourite memories was working with the Mercedes AMG Formula 1 last year, at their car launch.

She said: “It really was a dream come true getting to work with the drivers. Wearing their uniform was one of my proudest moments and I knew as I drove away from Silverstone race circuit, I wanted to do that forever.”

Colchester County High School for Girls has been educating aspirational young women for more than 100 years. As their motto says, they are both proud and privileged to be developing the leaders of tomorrow.

“Move beyond fear, never, never give up, listen to others, be grateful and have compassion. Work hard and believe something amazing will happen each day,” said headteacher Gillian Marshall.

The school has seen a number of successful alumni over the years. Notably:

n Helen Boaden, director at BBC News

n Pamela Brown, author of The Swish of the Curtain and other titles

n Georgina Cates, actor in Casualty and The Bill

n Beth Chatto, best known for creating the Beth Chatto Gardens near Elmstead Market

n Saskia Clark, GB Olympic gold medal winning sailor

n Stella Creasy, MP for Walthamstow

n Helen Mary Jones, member for Llanelli of National Assembly for Wales


Charlotte Atkins, MP for Staffordshire Moorlands, also attended the school. She joined the Labour Party in 1965 and was deputy leader of the party from 1983 to 1986.

She feels attitudes have improved towards women, particularly in senior roles.

She said: “When I was the first female head of research at the construction union UCATT, I was asked if I had as good a brain as my male predecessor, and was told by a male NEC member he could not go into a pub with me to discuss work because people would get the wrong idea.

“Also being in a very male dominated environment in the mid 70s, I was told I could not attend worker disciplinary hearings because swearing might be involved and that would be inappropriate. I did overcome those issues. I cannot imagine that happening today.”

She does, however, believe casual sexism persists. She added: “It was evident when I served as a Transport Minister in 2004-5. Some tabloid journalists seemed to have difficulty accepting a woman in that role as the team was usually totally male. So there is still a long way to go.”

Throughout history women have battled against inequality and discrimination, and have generally been sidelined because of their gender. And yet, along the way, they have continued to fight to make their voice heard. As physicist Marie Curie once said, “I was taught that the way of progress was neither swift nor easy”.

Women have had to learn there is no strength without struggle, it is refreshing to see even at 19, Helena show such resilience.