Formula one
The UK-based Formula One teams are home to more than 4,3023 employees. Mandel NGAN/AFP

In 2018, Formula One made a significant move by banning the use of walk-on grid girls before races to align itself with the #MeToo movement. This decision marked a departure from decades-long tradition, acknowledging that the practice of employing women in an objectifying manner on the track was outdated, contributed to sexual harassment, and perpetuated the male gaze.

Sean Bratches, Managing Director of Commercial Operations at Formula One, emphasised the need for updating practices to align with the sport's vision and modern societal norms. The ban on grid girls aimed to reflect Formula One's brand values and resonate with old and new fans worldwide.

However, while Formula One pledged to adhere to "modern-day societal norms," it faced criticism for its significant gender pay gap. Under the UK's Equality Act of 2018, companies with more than 250 employees must disclose their gender pay gap.

With over 4,302 employees, Formula One teams based in the UK revealed a 20% pay gap between men and women in a recent report. This disparity, although slightly below the UK's median gender pay gap of 18%, underscores ongoing challenges in achieving gender equality within the organisation.

Responding to criticism, Liberty Media, the parent company of Formula One, highlighted the male-dominated nature of the motorsport industry, attributing the gender pay gap to fewer women pursuing careers in science, technology, and engineering. Despite this, Liberty Media reiterated its commitment to closing the gender pay gap, emphasising ongoing efforts to improve female representation.

Research conducted by the independent motorsport initiative More-Than-Equal suggests that female drivers possess the physical and psychological capabilities required for racing at the highest levels. However, historical trends reveal a stark gender disparity in Formula One, with few female drivers competing in recent years.

Challenges such as insufficient tailored training for girls, limited track time compared to male counterparts, and a lack of female role models contribute to the underrepresentation of women in professional racing.

Abbi Pulling, a 21-year-old British racing driver, has emerged as a notable figure challenging gender norms in motorsport. Competing in the F1 Academy and the British F4 Championship,
Pulling recently made history by winning a British Formula 4 Championship race, becoming the first female driver to achieve this milestone. Despite facing barriers in her career, Pulling's success is a testament to the potential for female drivers in motorsport.

Reflecting on her journey, Pulling expressed gratitude for her achievements, acknowledging her challenges as a female racer. With aspirations to continue her success and inspire future generations of female drivers, Pulling's story highlights the importance of breaking gender barriers and promoting inclusivity in motorsport.

As Formula One and other racing organisations work towards closing the gender gap and fostering diversity, individuals like Abbi Pulling are beacons of progress in pursuing gender equality in motorsport.