Racing MBA Graduate David Letts on his journey through racing and his next challenge to examine the needs for diversity practice and policy across the sport.
I started my journey in racing on a cold winter’s day at Towcester Racecourse; I was in a pram and it was the first visit of many. My family are keen racing enthusiasts and, through my mother’s involvement in racehorse ownership (not hugely successful, it must be said), I was able to spend my weekends helping at a local trainer’s yard. Before long – as the old adage goes – I was bitten.
I enjoyed employment in various roles within the industry before embarking on the Thoroughbred Horseracing Industries MBA at the University of Liverpool, where I used the research opportunity provided to explore an aspect of the industry which had always interested me.
Prejudice fuelled my work
Growing up around racing and having started a career in the sport, it struck me that there were no visible LGBT+[i] role models. In addition, I had been told point-blank that I had not been put forward for a position because ‘I didn’t know if they [the employer] would get on with someone who is gay’ – as such, this research was not just important for the industry’s developing inclusion strategy, it was personal to me.
My work examined the prevalence of sexual minorities within British racing and associated attitudes. I found that the sport demonstrated diversity of sexual orientation in all sectors and that attitudes regarding sexual minority individuals were generally positive. However, despite these findings, many people identifying as LGBT+ felt uncomfortable or unable to be open about their sexual orientation at work. Hiding any aspect of your identity can have significant implications for both work and personal life, as well as mental wellbeing.[ii]
Supportive environment for everyone
As a result, several industry-specific recommendations were presented to the sport’s Diversity in Racing Steering Group, resulting in the formation of a specific LGBT+ sub-group. The aim of the group is to promote a diverse and inclusive industry, ensuring that racing provides a supportive environment for everyone who identifies as LGBT+.
I am thrilled that we have been able to create the newly launched LGBT+ eLearning module; it is hoped that this educational tool will permeate throughout the sport’s participants and promote a more open dialogue regarding sexual orientation. There is more work underway, including the creation of racing’s official LGBT+ network, which will be launched this summer – we hope you will join as a member of the LGBT+ community, or as an ally, in due course.
Society is part of racing
It is essential that British horseracing reflects the breadth and depth of society within which we exist; recognising and appreciating the value of a diverse workforce and spectatorship, while striving to ensure each individual engaging with our sport feels welcomed and accepted for who they are and what they bring is essential.
Support from The Racing Foundation and Diversity in Racing Steering Group is allowing me to undertake a PhD examining the sport’s broader culture and implications for diversity practice and policy. This work will provide racing with an understanding of our current position and highlight specific areas where further work is required.
The module is available at no cost via Racing2Learn and accessible and relevant to anyone involved in the industry, no matter what their role. Simply create a Racing2Learn account to get started. Follow @RacingwithPride on Twitter for further updates.
View David’s recent research examining the prevalence of sexual minorities within the sport and attitudes relating to the subject.
[i] LGBT+ = Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, plus all other sexual orientations and gender identities
[ii] It is important to note that ‘coming out’ is a personal decision which should not be forced. The hope is to create an environment in which individuals feel comfortable to do so, if they wish.