On 2nd February, Racing Pride launched LGBT+ History Month 2024 by hosting Accelerate Pride – a first-of-its-kind automotive and motorsport industry event held at the British Motor Museum.
The event brought together Racing Pride partners, members, and invited industry guests to discuss progress and challenges for LGBTQ+ inclusion, share ideas, network, and make connections to continue to drive improvements across the sector. Alongside the sessions, event supporters engaged with attendees by having stalls and displays featuring everything from Formula One car parts to an accessible motorsport simulator supplied by Team BRIT, a Formula Student car brought by 2023 Racing Pride Aston Martin Diversity & Inclusion Award winners Sheffield Formula Racing, and cars from Aston Martin, Genesis, and Alpine at the entrance to the venue. The Museum’s treasures were also open to and enjoyed by, attendees.
Event supporters included three Formula One teams – Oracle Red Bull Racing, BWT Alpine F1 Team, and Aston Martin Aramco Formula One Team – alongside Aston Martin Lagonda and Genesis Motor UK from the automotive industry as well as the national governing body, Motorsport UK. In addition to industry guests from a range of brands, the audience included Racing Pride’s member community, students, and members of the FIA Girls on Track UK community.
The opening panel, hosted by Dr Kate Bancroft of King’s College London, addressed the topic ‘LGBTQ+ Inclusion in the Automotive Industry: Progress & Challenges’ and featured Matthew Randall of Aston Martin Lagonda and Simon Branney of Genesis Motor UK alongside Wayne Bruce from Bentley Motors and Lotus Cars’ Barrie Hewitt. Matthew outlined how Racing Pride’s partnership with Aston Martin has facilitated meaningful discussions from line-attached staff to those in office-based roles and has empowered them to feel able to be themselves. Simon, meanwhile, talked about being conscious of ‘the shadow I cast’ and how individuals can use their influence to guide decisions and create opportunities that bring in the LGBTQ+ community.
Wayne shared the work which Bentley has undertaken to create a culture of belonging and to support a range of Pride initiatives and activities while keeping track of progress towards objectives. Barrie discussed Lotus’ expansion and the impetus this has given him and other individuals within their LGBTQ+ community at the company to build on their recent presence at Pride events.
Formula One podcaster and Racing Pride ambassador Christian Hewgill took over hosting duties for the remaining two panels which focused on the world of motorsport and reflected the projects Racing Pride has been involved with from grassroots to Grand Prix: ‘LGBTQ+ Inclusion in Motorsport: Creating Opportunities for All’ and ‘LGBTQ+ Inclusion in F1: Pride & Authenticity’.
The second panel included Motorsport UK’s Jessica Runicles, Anji Silva-Vadgama from Team BRIT, Will Jones of Sheffield Formula Racing, British endurance karting champion Jessica Alexander, and Laila Fadli Dokkali who is an MSc Motorsport Scholar with the Royal Academy of Engineering and Mission 44 partnership. It was fantastic to bring together those in a position of influence with young voices and a major theme of this highly diverse panel was intersectionality and individuality. Jessica Runicles discussed the trans inclusion policy which Motorsport UK developed alongside Racing Pride. Jessica Alexander welcomed this from a trans perspective, adding ‘you win a race as a person’. Laila echoed this theme saying ‘humanity is key’ in giving opportunities to individuals. Anji reflected on her Asian heritage and its intersection both with her physical disability and being LGBTQ+, while Will rightly emphasised the importance of building inclusion ‘at every step of the ladder’.
The concluding panel for the day explored the impact Racing Pride has made in the world of Formula One, having worked in various ways with 6 of the 10 teams since 2021. The speakers represented three teams with established, ongoing relationships with Racing Pride: Matt Drew from Oracle Red Bull Racing, Kerrie Sparling from BWT Alpine F1 Team, and Aston Martin Aramco Formula One Team’s Carys Conlon. They were joined by recently-appointed Racing Pride Director Bryanna Harding, who held initial discussions with Racing Pride from a HR perspective as early as 2020 which then matured into the partnership her team at the time, Aston Martin, announced in 2021. All of the speakers expressed how Racing Pride had helped to establish, support, and boost internal efforts within the Teams by facilitating discussions and assisting with education and policy. These internal actions are essential in creating authenticity to be reflected in external communications and activations.
While all of the speakers throughout the day acknowledged that there are hurdles for LGBTQ+ inclusion and that there can be pushback grounded in conservatism and caution around brand positioning, commercial implications, and similar sensitivities which can make this a challenging area of EDI to advance, there was genuine optimism radiating through the panels.
All expressed the overwhelmingly positive benefits to their brands, working environments, and team performance from engaging with LGBTQ+ inclusion and, as Bryanna said in the concluding panel ‘now it’s part of the agenda’ as a result of the efforts of the last few years since Racing Pride launched in 2019 to champion LGBTQ+ inclusion through motorsport and its associated industries.
Reflecting on the day, Racing Pride Co-Founder Richard Morris’ concluding remarks cherished the warmth and openness which had characterised the day and added that it is through a combination of ‘individual action, community, and authenticity’ that we can continue to build on the foundations we have and accelerate pride.
Following on from the success of this event, Racing Pride is excited to continue to bring the automotive and motorsport communities together and is already looking ahead to Accelerate Pride 2025.
Images by Izzie Fitzgerald (@shotbyiz)