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21 May 2024

Symposium delegates reflect on racing’s readiness to be truly diverse

Last Tuesday, the Racing to School and Racing Together team joined around 50 other industry colleagues at the British Racing School (BRS) in Newmarket to attend British Racing’s inaugural Diversity and Inclusion Symposium. 

The day was led by the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) and was well attended by representatives from across the sport – from racecourses and funders to charities and broadcasters, all eager to learn more about the work being done on embracing diversity and inclusion in the racing sector.

The new Diversity in Racing Advisory Group (DiRAG) has carried on the BHA’s work in this area with increased accountability and a wider range of member expertise, both internal and external to racing. They also provide a link to Horseracing Industry People Board (HIPB) in an advisory capacity, by offering an industry-wide D&I strategy. For more information on the DiRAG progress, visit the BHA webpage.

Following the opening comments from Lyndon Roberts, Head of Diversity and Inclusion at the BHA, and Dr Eleanor Boden, Chief Executive of the Scottish Racing Academy and DiRAG Chair, the event kicked off with a very interesting and interactive ‘Challenging Perceptions’ talk from former England rugby union player, Maggie Alphonsi MBE

With the discussion from Maggie’s presentation still fresh in the mind, the assembled panel posed the question: ‘Is racing ready to be truly diverse?’ Hosted by Racing to School Chief Executive, John Blake, the panellists were Dr Eleanor Boden, Lucy Attwood (HIPB), the RCA’s Paul Swain and Stan Wong from the Racing Foundation. Each guest took time to understand the meaning of ‘true diversity’ and to share their thoughts on whether racing is ready to move forward, with a keen awareness of the areas for improvement. Questions from the audience reinforced the overall consensus that while things are moving in the right direction, there is still work to be done and there was clearly an energy in the room committed to making positive change.

Alex Shaw, Community Engagement Manager at Racing Together agreed that “it is great to see so many people from within the industry come together and make commitments to change. Those changes could be something as simple as the use of language away from terms such as ‘D&I’ to make training more palatable, to larger gestures such as showcasing and supporting the careers of those less represented in the industry, showing that racing really is for everyone. We can all play our part.”

To aid digestion of the morning’s sessions and the lunch, everyone present took up the option to tour the fantastic BRS facilities and to chat to the students about their programmes and future plans. This short visit was enough to highlight the wide range of applicants and the level of enthusiasm of those young people keen to join the industry, which is definitely something to be celebrated.

After lunch, Lyndon Roberts focused on the importance of making commitments and how to turn them into actions, asking each audience member to think of just one thing they could do to increase inclusion and to pledge to carry it out. It is safe to say the room was abuzz with ideas.

Commitments to D&I were clearly present in the final talk of the day, given by Naomi Lawson from the Riding A Dream Academy and Carol Bramhill, Human Resources Director at the BRS. Naomi highlighted the now familiar story of Khadijah Mellah, the first jockey to wear a hijab in a competitive race in the UK and the winner of the all-women Magnolia Cup in 2019. Her story was picked up worldwide and was the subject of a documentary – Riding the Dream – which shone a spotlight on diversity and inclusion within British racing. 

Carol Bramhill concluded the day with a concise overview of all the considerations and adaptations made at the BRS to accommodate as many students as possible. Close attention is paid to the nine Protected Characteristics, including physical and mental disabilities, gender identity and religion/belief. One area the BRS examined was the range of meals being offered and made as many changes as possible to cater for their students. This practical approach to inclusion allows the young people at the BRS to feel safe, be comfortable and to thrive, ultimately enhancing the sport’s future workforce.

Racing to School and Racing Together are proud to support the industry in its commitment to inclusivity and look forward to supporting and showcasing this future work.

For more information on Diversity and Inclusion in racing, visit the Racing Together webpage.

Thanks to Hayley Burton for the use of her photographs from the day.

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