How Hamilton’s commission is inspiring Extreme E to recruit more diverse staff

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Extreme E teams are broadening the diversity of their staff through a scheme inspired by the findings of the Hamilton Commission.

The commission was set up by Lewis Hamilton to look why certains groups including black people are under-represented in motorsport, and more broadly in science, technology engineering and mathematics subjects, and address the causes.

Speaking at the launch of McLaren’s Extreme E and Formula E teams yesterday, senior principal race engineer Leena Gade described the efforts made by the off-road series to become more diverse.

“Extreme E has got two programmes that encourage all of that,” Gade explained. “There’s obviously the element of the drivers, that you have a 50-50 [gender] split.

Gade also referred to an previously-unannounced plan for teams to be able to work with Extreme E to source staff from under-represented backgrounds, to increase diversity in the paddock.

McLaren entered the second season of Extreme E this year
“Sometimes motorsport can be seen as quite elitist and that there’s only people who have tons of money who get into it, engineering included,” she said. “But there’s lots of different ways of getting into motorsport and encouraging people from socioeconomic backgrounds that wouldn’t necessarily be the first port of call to go and look for engineers or drivers.

“That’s really important. I think they could probably push that and work more on it because there’s definitely room for making sure that it’s much more inclusive.”

Extreme E imposes strict limits on the number of team staff allowed on-site during events, in order to keep its carbon footprint to a minimum. However, one suggestion for how to create more opportunities within the paddock is that an additional team member could be added, as part of the scheme, and in keeping with the Hamilton Commission’s recommendation for reaching out to schools which are not normally recruited from.

“You get to have an extra team member. So instead of having nine, you can have ten because you’re bringing somebody in who wouldn’t normally get the opportunity,” said Gade.

“Then they’re not just a token gesture coming in, they’re actually there with a function. They are coming from schools or organisations where [Extreme E] has been to say ‘think about motorsport as a career’. There’s all these different aspects to it and they’re bringing people in that way.”

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Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Circuit de Catalunya, 2021
Report: Hamilton wants to understand “deeper reason” for lack of black representation in F1
Gade’s sister Teena, who is the performance and systems engineer for McLaren’s Extreme E team, said that motorsport programmes could help each other to publicise schemes like the one in Extreme E.

“I think that’s one of the things with social media and things like that. Now you’ve got the F1 voices, you’ve got Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel and all those guys who are making those noises and some of the young drivers who’ve got big followings off the back of the Netflix effect. So that’s where to start positioning these things and what we have to do, in motorsport as a whole, is not be this narrow-minded.

“So where we only talk about Extreme E, it would be great if we got Lewis Hamilton at an event and he could talk to, there are a couple of technicians that I believe have come from various schools that are backed by the Hamilton Commission and actually talk about them on his Instagram or on his channels. To try and just get that momentum building.

“We do need to talk about it, I think, a lot, about not just the drivers but the people in the background. Perhaps Extreme E has so many things going on it could get diluted, maybe what we need to do is do it pick one event where we focus on one issue.”

Hamilton is the owner of an Extreme E team, X44, whose performance engineer George Imafidon was a member of the Hamilton Commission while its report was being produced.

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Author information

Hazel Southwell
Hazel is a motorsport and automotive journalist with a particular interest in hybrid systems, electrification, batteries and new fuel technologies....

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22 comments on “How Hamilton’s commission is inspiring Extreme E to recruit more diverse staff”

  1. “I have a dream that one day my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin, but the content of their character.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
    I am all for diversity, but everything I have heard since around 2016ish with the up surgent of identity politics, seems to be the opposite of what Dr King was trying to achieve.

    1. I don’t know what point you are attempting to make here but if it’s “we will resolve massive inequality by never observing that it exists or addressing the causes” then you are absolutely not agreeing with Martin Luther King Jr.

      That dream does not get achieved by airily saying that no one sees colour, sees inequality. That’s a way to preserve the status quo by saying it doesn’t matter, that of course everything possible has been done – which we know isn’t the case. In fact, an awful lot of energy has gone into preserving inequality on a global, national and industry-specific scale. People said that Hamilton’s words were empty or just talk when he first spoke out about racism; working to address it in the industry he can have the most influence in, via evidence-based methods of studying what the barriers are and finding ways to break them down in a series like XE where the challenge is so unique experience matters less, is taking direct action to improve the situation.

      Solving inequality and addressing issues of exclusion are uncomfortable. It will never be the case that these things are changed because we all hold hands and say it’s fine now.

      1. It’s really interesting how some people see equality as a goal or an end point – and whatever needs to be done to get it there should be done, no matter how much damage it causes.
        Then there are the others who see equality as an ongoing process – as in; the action of equality in all things, all the time.

        The question people need to ask themselves is: do they want the facade of equality on a demographic level, or real equality on an individual, personal level…
        A result one day, or a reality forever?

        1. Inequality is demographic and structural. It’s not personal and it covers a huge range of issues and exclusions; particularly in a world as small as motorsport.

          You cannot have equality on an individual level while individuals from some demographics have unequal opportunities. We have to address massive structural and social issues – you can’t sloganise change, it is something that has to be worked on to remove barriers and to create an equal playing field.

          If you believe nothing needs to be done to achieve equality then you believe the world is equal: it isn’t.

          1. The point I was making was what I said in that statement. It was merely an observation from the last 6 years of identity politics being shoved down everyone’s throats from every corner of the media. The identity of a group is more important than the identity of the individual seems to be the current motto, Which is absolutely the opposite of what Dr King was trying to achieve. Like I said I am all for equal opportunity and diversity. If there was already no diversity in motorsport, then Lewis Hamilton, Monisha Kaltenborn, Suzie Wolff, Chloe Targett-Adams, Sacha Woodward Hill, Karun Chandock, Narain Karthikeyan, Louise Goodman, Natalie Pinkham, Rachel Brookes, Juan Pablo Montoya, Maria de Villota (RIP) Alex Albon, Zhou Guanyu, Sergio Perez, probably wouldnt have made a success out of working in this industry.
            Or is this drive just about a lack of one particular demographic (black people) under the guise of ‘more diversity’. I think that’s the point I am trying to make.
            I am a fan of Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel not because of the demographic they belong to, but because of the way they drive an F1 car, I just want to make that clear as I know how the comments on here can spiral out of control.

          2. You have listed everyone diverse there you can think of. Imagine, in an industry of thousands, that that is everyone you can name. That the names stand out.

            Diversity is not isolated cases of people breaking through, it is about addressing the systemic exclusions that make those cases isolated. Start naming white men who have been successful in motorsport and you will be here a much, much longer time.

            This is not about group identity vs individual, I do not think you understood anything MLK said if you think he agreed with you.

          3. Well argued and said @hazelsouthwell

            I’m glad to see Extreme E, skeptical as I was about the whole idea of getting an extra series to race in remote areas to showcase environment, doing a lot of good things and seemingly having thought and acted well on a lot of issues to the point that the main thing that would make it more impactful seems to be wider coverage, so it’s actually been quite positive all in all. And the racing isn’t bad either, though I haven’t been able to watch all of it. So my thanks for the coverage!

          4. I’m interested in how you can say that inequality isn’t personal, @hazelsouthwell, when each and every one of us is a person. An individual.
            Please do elaborate on who exactly is being systemically excluded from motorsport or STEM based on non-personal factors.
            And by structural, I can only assume you mean that many individuals working together as a group (or using their own, similar, individual thought) are perpetuating such exclusion….

            It’s a sad fact of life that all people will be victim to unequal opportunity. One day you’ll have an opportunity that someone else misses out on, and yet on another day you’ll miss out and they’ll get it. That’s life.

            If you believe nothing needs to be done to achieve equality then you believe the world is equal: it isn’t.

            I don’t believe that at all. I even said so:

            If you want equality, just stop dividing people into categories. We are all human.

            Only when we are all treated equally, and treat others equally, will there be equality.
            The only way to reach equality, is to do equality, all the time.
            True equality can bring about equal representation, but forcing equal representation does not bring about or represent true equality.

        2. I propose that you drop the false question there. Off course this is about trying to make sure that more and more people get opportunities to get more out of themselves, out of their lives S.

          Off course it is a continual process, because we will never be “ready”, there will always be new issues, new opportunities, new developments and other people who we can help grow in their lives.

          I think it is really nice to see how motorsport has taken the opportunity with this completely new sport endeavour to, as @hazelsouthwell points out above, to start immediately from the get go to see and find new ways to get people involved who would otherwise have most likely been overlooked. It fits the idea that is part of XE – to take as little as possible that is disrupting the locale. And instead go there and help and engage local people. To me it makes the whole thing far more interesting than just the racing.

          1. No false questions there at all, @bascb. They are very genuine questions, and there are two very distinct answers that emerge every time they are proposed.

            Yeah, it’s a great idea – if you accept that it is discriminatory, and you also accept that that discrimination is being used as a tool to create that facade.

            I agree, it’s great that there’s a program to help people… But it’s doing it selectively, which is kinda the opposite of equality, isn’t it…
            You can’t ‘fix’ inequality by using inequality – just as you can’t fix discrimination by using the opposite discrimination. There’s no score to balance.
            Fighting fire with fire just makes a bigger fire. More people get burned.

          2. S, it is not discriminatory. That is your problem with this; it is a plan to get an additional person into race team roles, so not even to replace any existing staff. It is a way to make sure that staff is being drawn from a diverse pool.

            You can’t fix inequality by insisting the existing, unequal system works. This is where you are wrong.

            People do not get more opportunities by you just saying “well, we are all equal now” – that is not how structural inequality, which is what needs to be addressed, works.

          3. Of course it’s discriminatory, @hazelsouthwell. Why do you choose not do see it as such?
            If a team can get an additional team member but only from a specific pool of people, how is that not discriminatory?
            If the team wants Adrian Newey, they’d have to sack someone else, wouldn’t they…. He’s not a recipient of the Hamilton Commission’s services, after all. Stupid example, of course – but if not everyone suitable is able to take the position, then perhaps nobody should, as to offer the opportunity to only to a certain group is most definitely discriminatory.

            I have, at no point, insisted that any system currently in place is working. Where are you getting this from my comments?
            Humanity does not work, but it’s all we’ve got. No point creating further division within it just to make it look nice.

            All people do not get more opportunities by handing one or two people a position they may not otherwise get either.

      2. Brilliantly put.

  2. However teams can supplement their nine on-site staff with a tenth member through the Hamilton Commission scheme.

    So the rules created to keep Extreme E’s carbon footprint down can be negated by including an extra black woman on the team… I see…

    Totally agree with Gubstar above.
    If you want equality, just stop dividing people into categories. We are all human.

    1. How incredibly specific that you went for a black woman, when this scheme overall addresses people from excluded backgrounds.

      Dividing people is what has already happened, into people with opportunities and people less likely to have those.

      1. If I’d said ‘white man’ instead of ‘black woman’ – you just would have said that ‘white man’ is a privileged demographic.

        Dividing people is what you are doing by categorising people into demographics.
        Yet the people that make up those demographics are individual people. Just like you and me.

        You know who has the most opportunities?
        Wealthy people. Wealthy white people, wealthy black people, wealthy men, wealthy women…. There’s a theme here….
        There are other people who have opportunities… Those who ask for them, those who work for them, and those who sacrifice other things for them.
        Not everyone has all opportunities available to them at 5 or 10 years old – but if they want something enough, they’ll create that opportunity later on. Regardless of their skin colour or gender.

        1. I couldn’t have said it better myself

        2. Well, yes we are all individuals S. And if everybody was treated and judged, and got chances, based on the individual they were you might be right. But you yourself (seem to) acknowledge that’s not the case. Instead people are already judged by how they look, where they are from, what connections they have and how much (their parents) earn/have etc., which results in a motorsports world that’s white (cis) male dominated, and mainly from upper middle class and up background.

          So, bringing in diversity doesn’t need to start by looking at that group in general, but rather by addressing the lesser opportunities of people who are poorer, different gender, background etc.

          Now, it is hard to believe you didn’t already know this, so this will probably the last response to you.

          1. But you yourself (seem to) acknowledge that’s not the case.

            I do, because it will never be the case.
            We are human, and humans are as imperfect as everything else.

            Instead people are already judged

            Sure. There will always people who think this is okay. It’s unavoidable.
            Neither you or I can change the way someone else thinks – unless they are our children and we bring them up in an inclusive environment which values true equality. Many families will not.

            Nevertheless, motorsports are populated by people who are interested, not necessarily ‘privileged.’
            F1 and its teams have always been based in predominantly ‘white’ countries, which naturally results in predominantly white participation rates. That very representative.
            F1 also operates, and markets itself, in a manner that targets and appeals most to high income earners and people of high financial security. Sports are traditionally a hobby for people with time on their hands, and motorsports are unavoidably prohibitively expensive (especially F1). Again, totally representative.
            And finally F1, as an automotive engineering field, naturally attracts males predominantly as males are traditionally more interested in such things. Just as you’re more likely to find a female working in hospitality, education, healthcare or aged care – you’re more likely to find a male working in fields involving machinery, technology, large scale projects, etc. Also totally representative of society.

            As society naturally shifts, so will the representation within F1. Forcing it with representation and quotas won’t change the deeper contributing factors.
            Individuals of all backgrounds will ready themselves for F1’s opportunities, and they will be the right person for the job because they are the right person for the job and they have the desire to succeed in their chosen career path, not because they are the ‘right’ colour or gender.

  3. we live in a world where diversity is more important than professional competence

    1. Professional competence is considerably more threatened by only drawing people from one demographic.

  4. @hazelsouthwell
    Thanks for the article and your well reasoned replies to the many negative comments. I for one agree with you :-)

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