Liz Brooks: "We believe there’s performance to be found in a diverse and inclusive workforce"
It is important to talk about what we, as allies, can do to help the LGBTQ+ community. It is our responsibility to ensure that we create a safe and supportive environment for all people in the community.
And that is precisely what ROKiT Venturi Racing is all about. They embrace their responsibilities, holding a mirror to their own shortcomings, and are fully committed to being part of the solution instead of the problem. Females In Motorsport spoke to Lizzie Brooks, the team's Director of Strategic Communications, to find out more about this commitment.
ROKiT Venturi Racing is a team that has been competing in the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship since the very first season and it is in Venturi's DNA to champion change, innovation and progress. With Susie Wolff at the helm (first as the Team Principal and then as the Chief Executive Officer), the team keeps on challenging the status quo and is proud to stand up for those who do not always have a voice.
As Director of Strategic Communications, Lizzie plays a key role in conveying the team's values. It was Lizzie who worked alongside Chloé Bearman (Head of Partnership Activations) to create an article for the team's website about her experience as a gay woman in Motorsport.
Venturi has made its support for the LGBTQ+ community clear. From symbolic actions such as carrying the pride flag on their livery, to more concrete actions such as providing their staff with the proper tools and information, they are walking the talk.
“We fundamentally believe it’s the right thing to do. We have a very unique global platform with our team and with Formula E as a series, and we know that we have a voice.” Lizzie tells Females In Motorsport.
“It’s part of our DNA; we believe we have a responsibility to use this voice and this platform to champion important issues and underrepresented communities.”
Beyond the fact that this is something that should be considered normal, it’s also an opportunity. An opportunity to have the best talent, the best solutions, and the best team possible.
“We fundamentally believe there’s performance to be found in a diverse and inclusive workforce,” Lizzie says. “If you look around the room and only see people who look like you, from the same background, you’ll inevitably get the same solutions.
“A big part of performance in any team, not just motorsport, is problem-solving, looking at things from different angles with different perspectives and bringing different experiences. Having a diverse and inclusive workforce actually can have a serious impact on your performance as well.
“We see there being a real power in having an inclusive and diverse workforce.”
It’s sometimes difficult to attract people from under-represented groups. These are people who face many obstacles in their journey up the ladder and do not always feel that they belong.
“We want to attract the best possible talent to work for our team and, in order to do that, we need to make sure that people see us as an inclusive working environment because we want the best to come and work for us,” Lizzie says.
Motorsport is traditionally a heterosexual, white, rich man's world. But things are changing, slowly but surely. Through people like Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel, through teams like Iron Dames, through championships like Formula E and W Series, progress is being made and the world of motorsport is changing for the best.
“Motorsport, historically, is an incredibly male-dominated, heterosexual, machismo dynamic to work in and we want to show that it doesn’t have to be the case,” Lizzie says.
Lizzie and her team work on a daily basis to build an environment that allows everyone to feel safe to be themselves.
“If you’re from that community, if you’re from the LGBTQ+ community, or someone who struggles with mental health, or any other dynamic that you’ve been experiencing in your life that you may find challenging, we are the team for you,” she says.
“You don’t have to conform to a certain type or hide yourself to work for our team, you just need to be the best at what you do.
“It isn’t about your background, your gender, your sexuality, your cultural history… if you’re the right person for the job, you are the right person for the job and I think that’s a very important message for us.”
This year, the Monaco-based team is furthering its commitment by partnering with Racing Pride to continue to pursue acceptance and inclusivity. Their goal is to raise awareness and promote positive conversations around LGBTQ+ inclusion in motorsport.
“Fundamentally, it comes down to action - positive actions,” she says. “It is working with organisations like Racing Pride that Richard Morris co-founded. They are doing such a fantastic job to raise awareness of the issues for the community within a dynamic like motorsport.
“It begins by educating the teams and the series, the championship that we work with to help them understand that there’s actually a problem.
“A lot of the time, people think ‘well of course we are pro diversity,, why wouldn’t we be?’ and they have no idea that there’s a death by a thousand paper cuts on a daily basis for members of the community who aren’t out because they feel that they can’t come out because the dynamic is so heterosexual, it’s so heavily male-dominated and the language and behaviour can be very toxic…”
It’s not enough to say that you are an ally - it’s not enough to say that you support equality and so on. You really have to step up and act. That means educating yourself, informing yourself and holding yourself accountable.
“People need to be educated about the issues for the community within an environment like motorsport and they need to be given simple tools with regards to how to be better allies,” Lizzie says. “So, thinking about your language, the way you conduct yourself, creating the most inclusive working environment possible.
“That starts at every level within motorsport. It’s about the governing bodies, it’s about the right-holders, the stakeholders and it’s about the teams.”
The bottom line is that it's not a matter of just doing things for one month and then nothing. For things to really change, you have to act, act now, act tomorrow, act all year round.
“It’s not about putting a rainbow on your car, it’s not about wearing a t-shirt, it’s proper cohesive actions - it’s standing up and talking, it’s standing up and showing,” Lizzie says. “These are the things that are making a difference. And it isn’t an overnight solution, there isn’t like one thing that can be done and then we’re done.
“For me, we won’t have made full progress until we have members of the community who really feel like they can be themselves without prejudice throughout the industry. We have a long way to go to achieve this.”
Images are courtesy of Venturi.