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Formula E: tackling inequality in motorsport

The Formula E on-air team launch the search for new, young presenting talent at the Season Six Finale in Berlin. L-R; Dario Franchetti, Jack Nicholls, Nicki Shields and Vernon Kay

Picture above: The Formula E on-air team launch the search for new, young presenting talent at the Season Six Finale in Berlin. L-R; Dario Franchetti, Jack Nicholls, Nicki Shields and Vernon Kay

In July this year, the BBC reported F3 driver Enaam Ahmed’s comment that “levels of diversity” in motorsport are "20 years behind other sports." Ahmed didn’t see direct discrimination but said “it doesn’t feel representative” explaining “racing is an elitist sport.” Six-time Formula 1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton has openly raised his voice many times on the same subject, recently telling the Sunday Times: “Thousands of people are employed across this industry and that group needs to be more representative of society” in order to “become as diverse as the complex and multicultural world we live in.”  

Working in communications at global all-electric racing series Formula E, my instinct - or instructions - could easily be to defend the need for change, or improvement, but I’m not going to. Instead I’m going to peel back the surface, share with you where we are on our journey and explain why we need you to join our movement if we’re going to achieve our goals. We need your voices, insights and experience to guide us and to hold us to account.

Formula E is unique. It was founded with the purpose of progress. Created to counteract climate change by accelerating the adoption of electric vehicles, the team at Formula E work every day to deliver better futures through racing. A sport of the future, ready and waiting to connect with fans of the future. 

When I joined the team six months ago, I immediately found the culture both welcoming and accessible. Friends and colleagues from underrepresented groups tell me they feel the same. I’m a female in my thirties in an executive role and I feel accepted, respected and encouraged in an industry typically seen as ‘a man’s world’. As a junior female in my twenties starting out in motorsport, I couldn’t have said the same. A spotlight has been shone on the importance of women in motorsport over the last decade, now the same needs to happen for other areas of diversity, including, importantly, sexuality and identity.

At Formula E, we know that we can and must do more to promote inclusivity. Earlier in the year, after a coronavirus-enforced pause in racing, Formula E published an open letter signed by both our founder and our CEO which opened: “We’re back, and we want to come back better.” Our commitment explicitly includes, “Greater opportunity in our sport for underrepresented groups,” as we stand “United against discrimination in any form.

While we’re delighted with the warm reception to these words, we also recognise the need for action – long-term, substantive, intentional action. To quote Formula E team ROKiT Venturi Racing’s team principal and founder of Dare to be Different Susie Wolff, “It’s great to show support and communicate a desire to make the world a better place, but fundamentally it’s action that results in real change… there is a massive challenge ahead to create true diversity, not just in motorsport but in all aspects of society. We are all stakeholders in the future, the time to act is now.”

We are committed to action, but we also know we’re going to need to be both patient (not a personal strength) and tenacious. Sometimes change can be affected in an instant, but on other occasions seeds sewn now may not yield results for generations. From my perspective, the beauty of the opportunity before us is that communication is one of the most powerful tools we have at our disposal. Communication can drive unity or division and it is our responsibility to use it as a force for good. I can’t thank Diversity Pride enough for inviting me to write this blog with a view to doing just that. To have support as together we learn, and grow, is priceless. I’ve spent over 10 years campaigning for inclusivity, but I’m still learning every day. The single most important lesson is how to be a good ally and find allies of my own in the mission to create a better world where each of us is celebrated for who we are and our unique perspective, passions and personality.

At Formula E, we recently launched an Open Talent Call for Presenters, the first step in our Positive Futures programme focused on democratising opportunities for diverse talent on and off the race track. This competition is for young people aged 18 to 24 no matter their experience. We specifically targeted diverse communities to motivate a truly representative group of entries that would bring with them a fresh insight, approach and an opportunity to connect with new communities. It’s these diverse inputs that will make our industry better and our world better, encouraging us all to consider alternative perspectives and evolve creatively. As will soon be revealed when the final 15 are announced, casting our net far and wide, and looking beyond the walls of our world, has resulted in brilliant, original and personal content delivered by a bright, passionate, socially representative group of young people selected purely on merit and their potential to be the next presenter or commentator to join the Formula E team. 

Open Talen Call Presenters. Image of Amazin Lethi. One of the official judges

To choose the winner, we’ve appointed three inspiring judges. We’ve already announced UK DJ and presenter Maya Jama and German racing driver Daniel Abt. Joining them this week, is the third and final judge, former weightlifter, Stonewall ambassador and Athlete Ally Amazin LeThi. To have Amazin, an advisor to the British government on LGBTQ and east Asian inclusivity in the context of the Tokyo 2021 and Bejing 2022 Olympics Games, is a real honour. A victim of discrimination in her early life due to her race, gender and sexuality, Amazin has overcome consequent homelessness and serious mental health concerns, to come back stronger and become an advocate and spokesperson for positive change and inclusivity.

Amazin is a visible role model, empowering others through her experience and success to feel comfortable being themselves, speaking up and sharing their experiences. We are always proud to have LGBTQ role models taking part in our sport – from transgender racing driver Charlie Martin who competed in our inaugural esports competition, the ABB FIA Formula E Race at Home Challenge in support of UNICEF, to Racing Pride advocate, racer and stunt driver Abbie Eaton in the Jaguar I-PACE eTROPHY. We hope there will be many more to come.

As excited as we are about the progress we’re making, at Formula E we recognise that the mountain we have to climb is large and steep and right now we can’t even see the top, but we’ve embarked upon the climb with conviction and as a team. What we ask is that you keep in touch with us on our journey – tell us what you think we can do better for your community. Tell us what’s working really well, and we should do more of. Be part of our team. We need to make a difference and we need your help to do that. And in the meantime, please support our young Talent Call semi-finalists and back your favourite. The energy and passion with which they’ve entered the competition is the positively charged spirit that we believe in, embrace and want to see more of in our community and the world.

#PositivelyCharged, #FETalentCall

Find out more at: www.fiaformulae.com/positivelycharged

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Article written by Katie Traxton, Chief Communications Officer at Formula E

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