As one of the world's most elite racing series, the Formula One boasts a number of broken barriers, including the recent crowning of 18-year-old Max Verstappen as the sport's youngest grand prix champion. There remains, however, a marked dearth in female drivers. Only five women have ever participated in a Formula One series, the last of which raced in 1980.
The business world suffers from a similar, albeit less severe shortage of women. According to a joint study conducted by the Peterson Institute for International Economics and audit firm EY, women account for just five percent of CEOs. Even more troubling, nearly 50 percent of the companies that were reviewed for the study had no female executives at all. This reality is at odds with the abundance of data from the same report which reveals that companies with more gender-diverse hiring strategies actually out-earn their male-oriented counterparts by 15 percent.
Businesses must strive to place women in more prominent roles to avoid falling behind in today's dynamic corporate environment. As with F1 racing, it starts with a commitment to identifying the best female candidates for jobs across the organization.
Susie Wolff, one of the few female test drivers for Formula One, was guided by Claire Williams, board member of the Williams Martini Racing Team. This kind of women-oriented coaching and encouragement is already showing promise in the F1 world, with women finding more opportunities on and off the track.
A policy that facilitates female-led mentorships can benefit businesses organizations as well. Women who are already leaders in the company can act as role models for upcoming ladies, proving valuable career advice and sharing experiences. Women can also take a more direct role in hiring by referring qualified female candidate and heading internships, sponsorships and other recruiting initiatives.
The lack of women in F1 racing starts at the earliest levels of the sport: go-karting. Very few girls are drawn to karting, leading to even less women at the professional level. It's the same in business, with fewer women enrolling in business programs in college which results in fewer women in influential positions. This makes the task of recruiting a bit more difficult, but not impossible. Companies can identify prime female candidates by scouring places like college campuses, professional organizations, business incubators and even social media to identify qualified women.
Of course, it's not just a numbers game. Even in Formula One, the most important factor is how good a driver is. Unfortunately, many women don't even get the chance to demonstrate their skills.
While there are certainly instances of overt, purposeful gender discrimination in the corporate environment, most bias isn't deliberate but instead arises from ingrained societal rules and roles. According to Harvard researchers, interviewers have a tendency to focus on the gender of a candidate rather than their qualifications during one-on-one interviews. One of the most effective ways to combat this to interview job candidates in a group setting where women's ideas and experience can shine. Comparing male and female candidates in the side-by-side fashion can also help weed out candidates who will ultimately underperform in their duties regardless of their gender.
So what will it take to find the next Formula One driver? Just like in business, it'll take a dedicated effort to locate qualified female candidates as well as proper cultivation of the available talent. Aligning recruitment and retention strategies with a more women-oriented focus is the key to attracting and growing the female presence across all industries.