Sophia Bi: “People like us can succeed in this industry"
Diversity and representation in the motorsport industry are yet to be drastically improved upon. Things are changing, gradually, but there is still a considerable amount of work to be done.
Sophia Bi is the only Asian female marshal in the UK, a fairly surprising fact. She spoke to Females in Motorsport about her views as well as being part of the EDI (Equality, Diversity & Inclusion) committee for Motorsport UK.
During the day and across race weekends, Sophia works for ITV Motorsport - a channel that hosts coverage of events like the British Touring Car Championship. Her love of motorsport extends so deep that, as a hobby, she gives her time to marshal at tracks all over the world.
“Being the only Asian female marshalling it’s hard to set that example because you feel pressure and a lot of people looking up to you too,” she says. “But, at the same time, it's amazing because you're the only one that's currently done the whole motorsport experience whereas for younger people it can be quite overwhelming.
“I'm feeling really great, and to have all these lovely support and welcome messages from a lot of people on my socials is a wonderful thing.”
More recently Sophia was asked to join the EDI committee which aims to bring about change in Motorsport UK. There have been many discussions of hearing experiences and planning for how things can be improved.
“Hearing it from a coloured person, it really opened their eyes as to what they could do,” she says. “It's really been just a sit-down listening session at the moment. But know me personally, I’m planning a few events for motorsport marshals to connect with each other because with marshals we’re just on a post constantly all the time, we're not really connecting outside of that.
“And that's where the huge problem lies. Marshals who reached out to me feel excluded in that area in that aspect as well.”
One of the issues that many diverse people face at any level is serious concerns over money and budget. Motorsport isn’t cheap in any aspect and that is even proven when thousands of marshals give up their time, for free, to protect racing drivers, fans and ensure that events can go ahead.
“One of the barriers, amongst representation, is financial resources,” she says. “A lot of diverse people come from diverse ethnic groups and come from households that can't afford that financial stability to do what they want to do.”
Through the committee, she has spoken to the likes of ex-Formula 1 driver Karun Chandhok who shares a similar opinion that there are definitive money barriers for people just wanting to do things like marshalling.
Representation of diverse communities is something that all areas of motorsport are trying to improve upon. Formula 1 has the #WeRaceAsOne campaign which aims to combat the challenges brought about by the pandemic and global inequality that still exists.
Through better leadership within the industry, Sophia believes that’s where improvements can be made - through setting that example.
“It's all about getting the word out there,” she says. “It all adds up to representation and leadership as well. We need leadership in this industry, we can't see any at the moment when we can't see many coloured people that are representing anywhere on the W series and Formula E or F1.
“We need to show people that there are people like us out there that can succeed in this industry, and nothing's holding them back.”
Sophia previously worked at ITV studios, but through two good managers, she was teamed up with a job in ITV Motorsport. However, she loves the marshalling side and hopes to go to many more places once the pandemic allows.
“I'll never look back - I’ve just enjoyed it throughout the whole five years I've done it,” she says. “I just advise anybody to do it because it's a great way to make friends and to try out new race tracks as well.”