7 Things Lewis Hamilton & Mercedes taught corporates about Race, Diversity, Equality & Inclusion

Lewis Hamilton Diversity and Inclusion

After a controversial 2021 title decider at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, which saw the F.I.A’s Michael Masi at the centre of the duel in the Desert. There has also been a bigger fight towards improving racial equality and increased diversity and inclusion in motorsports led by Sir Lewis Hamilton.

The 7-times F1 World Champion (and 2021 People’s F1 World Champion), Lewis Hamilton became the most decorated driver in Formula 1 history with his Championship winning team, Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team. As such, Mission Diverse wanted to highlight the positive impacts that occur when employees and organisations work together to create positive change.

To set the scene for non-motorsport fans, F1 is a sport that has always been run, financed, funded, sponsored, supported, and participated in by predominantly white men, and a small number of women. With a similar fan viewership to match. So it’s not surprising that Formula 1 and its governing body (The F.I.A) remained muted in any response or action relating to the George Floyd murder and fight to end racism and racial equality.

In spite of this, Lewis called out F1 and the motorsports industry for their lack of action, and in doing so faced an uphill fight for racial equality in the sport which was met with resistance from “fans”, non-acceptance from other Formula 1 drivers and senior figures, such as previous F1 billionaire owner Bernie Ecclestone, who stated in 2020 “the sport is ‘too busy’ to deal with racism”. The ex F1 owner also ignored and dismissed overt racism within the sport from fans towards Lewis Hamilton as “a joke”. An example was the 2008 Spanish GP where “fans” painted themselves in Black face, calling themselves “Hamilton’s Family”.

Like many organisations today, Formula 1 still has issues with racism and discrimination, with more recent instances such as 2021, where a Red Bull racing employees sent racist Whatsapp messages about Lewis Hamilton, post his 2021 Silverstone GP win. It should also be noted, once this became public knowledge, Red Bull subsequently dismissed the employee.

Since entering the sport in 2007, Lewis Hamilton is the first and only Black man to race and win in Formula 1. He has since gone on to be the most successful Formula 1 driver in the history of the sport. However,  it could be argued Lewis’s biggest fight has been off track, having detailed the racism he has faced throughout his Motorsports and Formula 1 career. Nevertheless, Lewis and Mercedes-AMG have become leading figures in pushing and promoting racial equality, diversity, and inclusion in F1 and motorsport. With the drive and ambition to make the sport as a whole a more diverse, inclusive, and less discriminative place to enter and work within. And true to form Lewis and Mercedes-AMG Petronas put their head above the parapet to speak up out an end to racism, racial equality and inclusion both on and off track.

1. Greater Diversity Creates Winning Organisations

People think Diversity and Inclusion Training is a political distraction that takes away from the core of the organisation. However, diversity and inclusion is about a person or groups human rights and civil liberties. As well as adding to a person and organisations core and intrinsic values, cohesion, understanding and ability to do better. Which has been exemplified throughout 2020 and 2021 where Lewis and Mercedes AMG Petronas swiftly actioned their drive for greater Diversity and Inclusion. With Mercedes having hundreds of staff and executives efficiently trained on unconscious bias and diversity and inclusion, whilst simultaneously winning both Drivers and Constructors Championships. 

Lewis has also brought a new contingent of diverse fans to F1, with more people of colour, women, and people from of the LGBTQ+ community and A-list celebrities engaging in the sport. Fast forward to 2020 and 2021, both Lewis and Mercedes AMG Petronas have further increased a diverse fandom and acceptance through their proactivity and openness to improving Race, Diversity, and Inclusion.

So…

  • – 7 F1 Drivers Championships
  • – 7 Constructors Championships
  • – 2 Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives in The Hamilton Commission and Accelerate 25
  • – Galvanised Formula 1 & F.I.A to acknowledge and take an active stance to improve
  • Diversity and Inclusion in motorsports.
  • – Increased Diverse viewership and racial awareness
  • – Won for the 2020 World Championships

… At Mission Diverse, we’d call that G.O.A.T behaviour.

2. Listen To Unheard Voices

Understandably, organisations have a habit of assuming that boards and C-suite executives know more about how to develop, grow, and engage with new and emerging markets and revenue streams.

However, organisational development and growth often comes from the people with lived experiences and a ground level understanding of how the organisation itself operates. Therefore it should be acknowledged, the people who work within your organisation are the people that will promote and develop workplace diversity and inclusion. Why? Because the staff who work within your organisation at a low or junior and managerial level understand and engage in the daily “nitty-gritty”, experience workplace challenges and functional activities of the organisation. As a result, they are also the people who experience workplace challenges which include racism and discrimination, and are therefore able to guide senior and board level leaders in the direct to create change.

Although they may be the minority or unheard voices, they should always be heard, no matter how small. As the only Black driver in Formula 1, Lewis Hamilton exemplifies this. Although he is the minority within his organisation, his voice has largely been unheard for most of his career up until 2020. Since taking an active stance to improve diversity, as well as talking about his experiences on and off  track of racism. He has galvanised Formula 1 teams, F1 and the F.I.A itself to actively champion diversity in the sport through a series of long-term initiatives.

3. Traditional Leaders Should Lead From Behind

Being a leader doesn’t always mean leading from the front. Studies have found only 11 top roles across FTSE 100 companies are held by ethnic minority leaders. Meaning it will take more than 200 years for the leadership of the UK’s largest firms to match the diversity of the working population. Therefore leaders, C-suite executives and company CEOs should adopt the learning and educational approach to diversity and inclusion, thus encouraging and promoting people who work under them with lived experiences to lead on the changes they believe need to be made to move an organisation and culture forward. As such traditional leaders should lead from behind as an enabling and support mechanism to support actionable change for those from diverse backgrounds. 

Again, we use Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes AMG Petronas as the example. Lewis leads from the front, and through lived experience he understands what needs to be done to advance diversity and inclusion. With Mercedes and Toto Wolff as a team leading from behind as the vehicle to drive forward and facilitate changes that are required within their organisation highlighted by Lewis and others. 

4. Represent Your Organisation With Pride & Dignity

Lewis and Mercedes were the first and initially the only voice speaking out to improve equality, equity, diversity, and inclusion in F1. Amongst their competition and colleagues, Lewis and Mercedes have both taken a visceral stance against racism, discrimination, as well as providing resources, information, and support on how to improve diversity and inclusion. As such, they have carried themselves with dignity and pride, from senior leaders and executives such as Toto Wolff; to drivers, mechanics, and engineers. Emblematic of how the team has gone racing both on and off track, a stark contrast to Mercedes 2021 World Championship title rivals.

5. Creating Initiatives

As well as The Hamilton Commission founded by Lewis Hamilton. The Hamilton Commission partnered with the Royal Academy of Engineering, which addresses the underrepresentation of Black people in UK motorsport, as well as the STEM sector. After ten months, research project concluded The Hamilton Commission created 10 active recommendations to increase diversity in motorsport throughout the field.

Moving away from generic statements such as; “we’re committed to diversity and inclusion”. Mercedes announced their ‘Accelerate 25’ programme initiative, a diversity programme to employ at least 25% of all new employees coming from underrepresented groups in each year up to, and including 2025. On top of this Mercedes is providing unconscious bias training to all their recruiters, as well as having all employees including managers undergo diversity and inclusion training. Mercedes has begun a range of internal and external initiatives to accelerate learning and reach diverse untapped talent pools.

But it doesn’t end there, Mercedes have also partnered with the Mulberry STEM Academy to create a five year programme for young people that will provide them with extra-curricular science, technology, engineering and math activities, teaching, and inspirational role-models. This Mercedes initiative aims to help young people develop their interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and maths) subjects and encourage them to continue these subjects in higher education, with a view to entering Formula 1 in future. 

6. Not all Gestures are Forms of Tokenism

Gestures accompanied with positive action can be the trigger for real long lasting change.

And after the shocking murder of George Floyd in 2020, Mercedes debuted a Black livery for their F1 car for the 2020 and 2021 season to show their solidarity and commitment to anti-racism. Some saw painting the car black as a token gesture, however, Mercedes used this livery as a way of raising awareness across the world. This was also coupled with their real commitment to implement change. As mentioned previously, Mercedes created their ‘Accelerate 25’ programme to cement their commitment to diversity and inclusion in F1. In addition to partnering with the Association for Black and Minority Ethnic Engineers to support ethnically-diverse engineers move into the motorsports industry. As well as increase diversity within their own ranks.

7. Stop Making Excuses

There are only a few reasons why people think Diversity and Inclusion training is not needed. Firstly, it doesn’t affect a person or group of people personally or professionally. Therefore it holds no importance or significance to those people. Secondly, some people or groups benefit from a lack of understanding and awareness around diversity and inclusion, as such, the status quo is fine from their viewpoint. Thirdly, people or groups of people may hold racist or discriminatory views and beliefs and don’t want to see or experience change.

Either way, we thought we’d myth-bust some excuses such as:

  • We don’t have any issues here” – Issues surrounding Diversity and Inclusion don’t affect the people who are opposed to it, and therefore don’t care to acknowledge or address a lack of diversity.
  • “It’s just political correctness from people who are ‘woke’” – People who hide behind the ideology of political correctness and being “woke” are simply exhibiting overt microaggressions to belittle and demean others who do share a view of diversity, inclusion, equality, and equity. As an employer, this should also raise questions as to “why has you’ve recruited and employed people who don’t believe in equity and equality?”
  • “We don’t have the budget at the moment” – What organisations really mean when they say this is “it’s not high on our list of priorities’’. However, the murder of George Floyd in 2020 saw consumers changing their purchasing behaviours in response to the lack of racial equality and diversity within organisations. As a result we saw organisations respond very quickly and resourcefully by putting financial resources towards staff diversity and inclusion training, race awareness training, community related initiatives, marketing initiatives and campaigns within weeks. Highlighting that when companies see a threat to their revenue streams and profit margins they are able to find budgets to mitigate these potential losses where diversity is a concern.
  • We don’t have time at the moment” – similar to “we don’t have the budget at the moment” statement, time for developing workplace diversity and inclusion is predicated based on company profitability and revenue. Where organisations see there are potential financial losses they are able to find time to develop their employees and extended workforces.

Looking For Diversity & Inclusion Training…

If you’re interested in developing a more diverse and inclusive workplace, or want to become a more inclusive leader, click here to book onto our live online Diversity and Inclusion, Unconscious Bias or Race awareness training. If you are looking for training for your employees, click here for staff Diversity and Inclusion, Unconscious Bias or Race awareness training.

7 Things Lewis Hamilton & Mercedes taught corporates about Race, Diversity, Equality & Inclusion
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