Diversity in Racing: Jason Wilson


Jason Wilson | The Jockey Club 

As many people in the United States and around the world question their personal views on diversity and racial inclusion, we decided to look inwardly on our industry, and we found it wanting. So we asked a tough question to several industry members- How do we make racing at its highest level more diverse?

JASON WILSON, President and COO of Equibase 

I am keenly aware that I am the only African-American in the executive ranks of horse racing. I used to joke that Equibase’s advertising meeting was the most diverse meeting in racing (only one of seven members is a white male). Sadly, any meeting I am in is probably the most diverse meeting in horse racing.

There is more to say on this topic than can be printed in one issue of the TDN. Diversity encompasses a broad range of activities. It includes hiring, employee development, corporate culture, and those with whom we do business (fans, owners, and vendors). I will focus my comments on hiring.

The starting point should be to ask why we want to encourage diversity. There are a whole host of reasons, but I will mention the one that should appeal to everyone: Diverse companies are more profitable. McKinsey & Company has studied the performance of diverse companies three times over the past five years, and each time reinforced the hypothesis that diverse companies greatly outperform non-diverse companies, and the greater the representation, the higher the likelihood of outperformance. Moreover, in each of the three studies, the likelihood of outperformance continues to be higher for diversity in ethnicity than in gender. The diversity winners are adopting systematic, business-led approaches to diversity and inclusion, and the results are 36% greater profitability for those that are ethnically diverse and 25% for those that are gender diverse. (Full results of the study here).

Companies need to have a commitment to diversity and meaningful accountability. Early in my career, I was in-house counsel at a growing tech company in Silicon Valley. I raised my hand to chair a diversity task force to increase diversity at the company. After several months of work, the consultant that we hired to help us sat me down and said, “Listen, everybody here means well, but I do not sense that there is an organizational commitment to diversity. Until this becomes the fabric of key performance indicators, performance reviews, and compensation structures, very little will change.” So it requires more than good intentions. It requires the same rigor that we bring to the rest of our business.

Next, we need to look at our hiring practices. I have often heard that we need to hire somebody with racing or horse experience for any given role. That reduces the available talent pool and is a built-in impediment to any diversity. I can point to a handful of people who I work with that came to the sport without any industry experience and have flourished. Rather than recruit primarily from our networks, look to establish alternative pipelines for talent: create scholarships and recruit at historically black colleges and universities and establish internships to give a range of younger people exposure to racing. Equibase and other companies affiliated with The Jockey Club are looking at these strategies.

Honest conversations about diversity are uncomfortable. An incredibly talented and successful college classmate of mine, Mellody Hobson, gave a TED talk on this topic. I encourage anyone interested in the future of the sport to watch it. I also encourage anyone who is interested in speaking about this topic to reach out to me at [email protected]

Do you have an idea that you would be willing to share for this series? Email the TDN’s Katie Ritz at [email protected]  


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