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Note from the editor: In an attempt to amplify new and diverse voices in the space that deserve to be heard, we will be featuring their work here in the newsletter. I encourage you to engage and help amplify these folks both here in the comments and also on social media. -VL
Grid Clique Livery Report: A look at gender representation
2022 ushered in new beginnings for Formula 1: new regulations, new budget caps, and new car liveries (for the most part). As social media continues to burrow its way into F1’s culture, greater visibility into the paddock is inevitable, providing a behind-the-scenes look into each team and serving as both a close eye – as well as a loudspeaker – gauging every action they take.
F1 has also leveraged social to talk about ongoing campaigns they’re spearheading, such as the #WeRaceAsOne initiative – their public commitment for more inclusion in gender and diversity throughout the paddock and beyond. But how much progress has really been made to date?
My co-founder of Grid Clique and I watched and took note of each of this year’s livery reveals to see which teams — if any — stood up to the gender diversity test. The criteria are simple: we would gauge the percentage of females represented in each live presentation, with ‘female representation’ defined in this series as presenters, employees, or experts who speak on-screen during the live-recorded presentation time. Not asking a lot, right?
Let’s start by celebrating those who stood up to the test: McLaren, Aston Martin, and Mercedes AMG Petronas blowing the competition out of the water, with 34%, 25%, and 23% female representation, respectively.
McLaren takes P1 as not only did they leverage female employees in the promo reels (a rarity, surprisingly), they also showed their commitment to female talent in their run-of-show. The first segment of the 55-minute long event featured an interview of the first female McLaren Extreme E driver, Emma Gilmour, accompanied by two female engineers on her team – not only an incredible initiative to showcase but also meant that the thousands of live viewers tuning in for the car reveal saw more women than men on-screen talking about racing.
It sounds small, but a movement like this shows young fans, both male and female, that women deserve to be at the table (as well as on the track) – and for young women especially, it provides a frame of reference that there are career opportunities in racing for women too.
Watch the moment right here:
Special mention also goes to Aston Martin who had 25% female representation in their live event. They showcased female interviewers and engineers in their pre-event Live, featured W Series driver and Aston ambassador Jessica Hawkins during the reveal, and leveraged strategist and consultant Toni Cowan-Brown (otherwise known as F1Toni on TikTok) for the post-event recap. Mercedes also deserves a spot on the podium for featuring a female BIPOC presenter and racing driver Naomi Schiff and 11 year-old Mercedes junior academy driver Luna Fluxa.
Now, let’s move on to those who didn’t quite pass the test.
Ferrari showcased 0% female representation in their live event: though their presenter base was small, with only team boss Mattia Binotto, drivers Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz, and Ferrari CEO John Elkann on-screen during the presentation. Alfa Romeo was in the same boat. However, this doesn’t give them a pass – even with a small presenter base, women deserve to be commended and celebrated for their hard work as equally as men.
But the biggest disappointment was Red Bull. Not only was there 0% female representation by way of presenters, employees, or experts who speak on-screen – the only women featured in the 30-minute long presentation were also two star-struck teenage schoolgirls* watching in awe as Max sped by in the RB18. Not one single woman in the factory was even panned by in the promo reels.
Watch the RB18 car launch video here:
All of this to say: some teams are taking the important first steps in the #WeRaceAsOne mission to include women and lift their voices – but unfortunately, some are far behind. So how can we improve these numbers and bring a call for more female representation across the board?
For starters – women need to be in the room where decisions are made. We have every reason to believe that if there were female executives engaged in the conversation while Red Bull, Ferrari, and Alfa Romeo were creating their livery reveals, things would have been different. (Trust me, I’m a corporate communications consultant – a lot of the time it’s my job to tell executive leadership – typically traditional men of similar skin tones – how their words and actions may affect others). But it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand that leaving women out of their events was a huge oversight.
In Red Bulls case, this also isn’t helped by Christian Horner’s recent faux pas of suggesting ‘young girls’ are interested in the sport because of the ‘good-looking drivers,’ and failing to note other reasons why women may be attracted to the sport – the thrill of an overtake, the drama of pole position, and the thumping adrenaline you feel lap after lap. If there were more women working hand-in-hand with leadership, comments like these wouldn’t be made.
We also need people and allies like Lewis Hamilton, who are raising their voices and using their platform to speak on the importance of women in leadership roles – not only at the team level, but throughout the industry.
Only then, can we wish to make a change. Check out Grid Clique’s 2022 Livery Report on female representation and follow us as we dig into the hard-hitting topics that need to be discussed across motorsport.
*(Note: This isn’t to disparage fangirls. We are a huge supporter of ‘the ode to fangirls.’)
Sarah Levenson is the Founder and CEO of Blue Flag Communications, a corporate communications and investor relations agency working at the intersection of tech and racing. She is also a co-founder of Grid Clique and a founding member of Women of GP.
Grid Clique is a safe space for everyone interested in motorsport – the women afraid to be judged, the new fans trying to avoid gatekeepers, and even the decades-old supporters — to learn from the experts pounding the paddock pavement, one IG Live at a time.
I really appreciate Sarah’s attention to this issue in motorsport, specifically F1. The fact of the matter is that if we don’t call this out, things will never change.