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McLaren 60 Scholars Programme Wrapped Up

At the end of August, Females in Motorsport had the opportunity to head to the Wrap Event for the McLaren Racing 60 Scholars Programme. Here, we had the privilege to engage in some enlightening conversations with a few of the cohort of exceptional young women who had just completed the programme, as well as some spokeswomen representing McLaren Racing.

Among the notable figures Females in Motorsport had the honour of speaking with was Kate O'Hara-Hatchley, Head of Diversity, Early Careers, and Development at McLaren Racing. She played a pivotal role in the inception of this initiative, which aligns seamlessly with McLaren Racing's 60th-anniversary celebrations. I also spoke to Gracie, Tia and Sadiyah, three of the programme’s scholars. 

“Today is the culmination of the 60 Scholars programme we set up for the first time this year working with our partners Google, Cisco and Cadence,” Kate says. “[It] really set out to find 60 young women aged 18 to 24 in the UK, who aspired to be future STEM leaders. So they've gone through their programme and today really is about getting them together in person and combining a lot of the elements they've already learnt about.”

One of the scholars, Gracie, a student and, in her spare time, a motorsport engineer in British GT, shared her excitement.

"It’s been really interesting to get an insight through all the different programmes and opportunities available,” she says. 

It is evident that the Scholars have learnt a lot from their experience. Tia, who has just finished her A Level studies, is going on to do design engineering at Bournemouth University. Her favourite thing to do in her spare time was being a part of her school's green power racing team.

Tia states that she “wasn't really sure what to expect but [they] started meeting loads of amazing speakers who taught [her] loads”. 

The final Scholar I got to speak to was called Sadiyah, who is a computer science graduate, currently studying cyber security. 

“I was able to learn from other female’s career journeys and their experience here,” Sadiyah says. “It's more an insight into what I want to do in the future.” 

From an outsider’s perspective, you would not think that this is the girls’ first day meeting as a cohort. The way that the Scholars were getting on and the community they have built throughout the programme is so brilliant.

“The most interesting part of the programme for me actually is seeing the community come together,” Kate explains. “So immediately from when we selected the scholars, got them together for the first kickoff event, through to now, the scholars [have come] together.

“They’ve set up a WhatsApp Group. A few of them met together at the British Grand Prix. They really built that relationship and when you speak to the Scholars themselves they've learned so much from us and our partners that have come on board but actually building that community of like minded women who are really passionate, about coming into whether it's motorsport, tech, STEM, software, whatever it is, building that community has been incredibly powerful for them and you can see that coming in today. Already there are some great relationships that are built.” 

Kate is not alone in noticing the community build, but also the Scholars reflected on this when speaking to me about what they will take into the future as a result of the programme.

“I've met so many incredible people that there is no way I'm going to walk away from this and not talk to them again,” Tia says. “They've all had such different experiences. I'm definitely going to keep in touch. It's been so good.”

Gracie echoed Tia’s thoughts.

“I'll definitely take a lot from the programme itself as there's been a lot of useful advice,” she says. “There’s a lot of confidence gained, because it’s an industry where it's hard to find other females but also make yourself aware that you actually can do this. You can often walk into a room and it will be male dominated and you can kind of feel a bit invisible but knowing that you are making a difference it is important and it's great to see the female diversity growing.”

The way in which these Scholars reflected upon their journey but also the way that the other women within the programme impacted them was so inspiring and showed the programme did what it set out to do and more.

“I've learned things about myself I didn't know, I've gained so much confidence, [and] I've seen other people get to these amazing positions and opportunities,” Tia says. “It's propelled me forward now that I know what I want to do.

“I was given so much advice on how to progress in my career being so early on and learning all the different things from everybody. It's taken a while to get used to because I’ve never done anything like this but I'm so so glad I did it in the end.”

McLaren Racing is using their 60th anniversary not just as an opportunity to celebrate the past but also to create a legacy.

“The 60 Scholars Programme is exactly that, creating that future legacy of amazing talent and in particular for us in McLaren Racing supporting more women into our team, into motorsport and then STEM more broadly is of utmost importance,” Kate says. “We really see that driving greater performance within the team. So different perspectives, different ways of problem solving, being able to come in and challenge the way we do things and the status quo. Ultimately we are in the game of constant improvement, taking risks, and getting a different perspective will ultimately get us back to the front of the grid.”

Throughout the programme the scholars have had many exciting opportunities, Kate explains they have had Zak Brown in to come and talk to them and panel sessions from female leaders within McLaren Racing.

On their final day of the programme at the Wrap Event, the Scholars undertook hands-on experiences, including a tour of the McLaren Technology Centre, a pit stop challenge, and thrilling races in the Shadow Studio, which added a dynamic dimension to their learning journey.

There was such a great buzz surrounding the Wrap Event which showed the undeniable success of this programme. It has been such a positive programme not just for the Scholars but also showing the opportunities there are for motorsport teams to further careers for women within motorsports. 

McLaren Racing has done a great job at reflecting on the past 60 years and pushing what they want to pursue in the future, committed to shaping a more inclusive and promising future for the industry.


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