This afternoon, 7-time Formula One World Champion, Lewis Hamilton, and Dr Hayaatun Sillem CBE, Chief Executive of the Royal Academy of Engineering, co-chaired and published ‘Accelerating Change: Improving Representation of Black People in UK Motorsport’. The report “explores the barriers to the recruitment and progression of Black people within UK motorsport, which start in early life and throughout their educational journeys, and provides ten recommendations to address them”. But, what does this mean for SMEs across the UK? Real Business finds out.
Lewis Hamilton has been no stranger to standing up for what is right throughout his time in the spotlight. And now more so than ever as the world-champion has made a significant commitment to countering racial inequality in a predominately white, male sport. The report includes calling for Formula One teams to adopt a diversity and inclusion charter; for teams to adopt apprenticeship schemes and scholarships facilitating black students progression in motorsports and why there needs to be more black leaders and teachers in STEM subjects at school.
As Hamilton continues to defend his world championship title at the British Grand Prix this weekend against Redbull’s Max Verstappen, there is no-doubt the media and Hamilton won’t shy away from the abhorrent abuse Jadon Sancho, Marcus Rashford and Bukayo Saka received after the England Euros 2020 defeat last Sunday. Despite the report’s findings being based on improving the representation of black people in UK motorsport, Hamilton will continue to fights against injustices across all fronts and mediums, with the report discussing that discrimination and underrepresentation in sport are not new challenges. Over the past couple of years there have been many organisations set up to address this, most notably “Kick it Out” and “Show Racism the Red Card”.
But, what will the report mean for UK SMEs?
As the report found, the UK holds a prominent position within motorsport across the world, with around 4,000 motorsport companies in the UK, and most of those being SMEs, “with typically between 10 and 50 people employed, and with annual turnovers of the order of £3-5M”. Although Formula One is such a huge commercial brand, it can often mask the fact that there is a host of other opportunities to jump-start a career in motorsport. However, the report explains, “with limited HR capabilities and without the kind of automated recruitment software used by large corporate organisations. As such, recruitment to five or ten graduate positions may result in over a thousand applications which need to be sifted by hand”.
One of the key points the report made was the promotion of jobs from motorsport SMEs were only advertised at Russell Group Universities (high research-ranking universities), however, as is shown in Chapter 5 of the report, Russell Group universities tend to have less diverse student cohorts, particularly with respect to students from Black backgrounds. The report goes on to say, “The notion of being ‘meritocratic’ with regards to recruitment was a commonly held view, but few considered the equity of candidates’ prior educational experiences”.
Often, SMEs start their diversity and inclusion strategies with a focus on recruitment, but “wider practices impacting on the workplace culture and environment also need to be addressed,” the report states. While white, male engineers are more likely to experience ‘inclusion privilege’, they also frequently appear to be in leadership roles too, and although they are in the position to influence change, they may not think change is necessary, the report explains.
Barriers of Engagement
The report highlights that due to the geographical barriers and population density that those living in inner cities are ‘severely restricted’ as they are not exposed to race tracks, limiting the opportunity of exposure to motorsports, ultimately resulting in those not considering engineering careers while at school. The lack of knowledge of engineering comes to no surprise when there are little-to-none influencers who are not always well-informed about careers in engineering and motorsport.
In the reports introduction, Hamilton describes how he was expelled for something he hadn’t done when he was at school, and unfortunately this is a common occurrence for those in ethnic minorities. “Black Caribbean students were around 1.7 times more likely to be permanently excluded compared with White British students.”, “Black Caribbean and Mixed White and Black Caribbean students, Black African boys and Mixed White and Black African students, as well as other ethnic groups also had a higher chance of fixed-period exclusion compared with White British students”.
The report goes on to say that although those in ethnic minorities perform equal, if not better than those outside ethnic minorities in STEM subjects, when it comes to GCSEs, the attainment and achievement of those in ethnic minorities decreases. The complex interaction of poverty and race that contributes to lower educational achievement, is crucial to address, which may explain why there is little engagement towards the STEM subjects. However, when external organisations (SMEs) visit educational institutions, this inspires youngsters, giving them exposure to what they could soon be.
Although there are multiple variables that factor in to why motorsport isn’t inclusive to all, these are just a few. The report provides 10 recommendations which you may find useful. If you want to read the full report, you can find it here. So now it’s time to think. What are you doing to ensure that your SME is an inclusive and diverse one? Lewis Hamilton and and the Commission are committed to tackling the barriers faced by young black people across the UK, but make it clear throughout the report the importance of external influences such as SMEs to ensure that black people aren’t ignored in motorsport and beyond.