In his new role as Chief Diversity Officer for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, NTT IndyCar Series, and IMS Productions, Jimmie McMillian will play a pivotal role in shaping the future for Penske Entertainment’s key properties.
The Chicagoan, a married father with twin 12-year-old sons, was a valued contributor within IMS as its senior legal counsel well before the addition of his new responsibilities. As CDO, McMillian is finding there’s never enough time to fulfill the vast array of duties and developments that come with the job.
“What does a Chief Diversity Officer do? It depends on the day,” he says. “One day I may be completely engulfed in matters related to hiring and recruiting. That means trying to take a position that is open here and then trying to target and outreach to different diverse populations through social media, through different affinity organizations, national organizations, to try to get a different candidate pool than what we usually get to make sure it’s not monolithic, and that is actually reflective of the larger community.
“And in working with our hiring managers to make sure that through the process, we’re continuing to make sure at different stages that there’s diversity at the interview phase and that there’s diversity in the final selection phase. Obviously, we’re not going through picking out, “This person’s black, this person’s white, this person’s a woman,” but we are trying to make sure, as much as we can, that there is representative diversity in the group. We’re going to pick the best person for the job. But we want to make sure that pool includes folks of all life so that we are truly picking the best person for the job.”
McMillian’s passion for racing, which started long ago when he worked at a Firestone dealer changing tires, is fulfilled through his CDO oversight of Penske’s new Race For Equality & Change program.
“On another day, I might be involved in NXG Youth Motorsports, which is one of our premier relationships that we have here at the track,” he continues. “It’s run by Coach Rod Reid and it’s the kids that are primarily African American and Latino kids, both boys and girls, who are learning, in addition to go-karting, it’s a STEM program, it’s a character development program. So I’m working with NXG and its sponsors to figure out how we can grow and support that program, and also adding additional pieces to it beyond go-karting. Creating a pipeline through NXG into the sport for underrepresented people is a big part of my job. And not only working with them, but then some other organizations like Kids on Tracks, and most recently starting to work with Soapbox Derby of Indianapolis. So I’m working with a number of different groups around the city to make that happen.”
Bringing growth to the IndyCar paddock is another area where McMillian’s energy is spent.
“And then ultimately, we also are talking to different potential ownership, trying to figure out a way to diversify the ownership,” he says. “You see it in NASCAR with Michael Jordan and Pitbull, who recently took an ownership stake in NASCAR teams. We’re trying to do the same and find and reach out to and feel any interest as it relates to potential ownership in the IndyCar Series. We think we have a great opportunity for a potential owner, particularly a diverse owner, to come in and be involved in the sport. And so that’s part of my responsibilities as well.”
McMillian sees holding the position of CDO as an opportunity to expand participation in the sport in meaningful ways that could have long-lasting effects.
“I think it’s important to realize that while the discussion is about race and gender, I view my role and I view our role as growing the fan base as a whole,” he said. “I look at those images of back in the sixties and seventies on Qualifications Day when there were no [empty] seats in the stands. And I remember when I used to come to the Brickyard 400 and it was as packed as it was at the Indy 500. I remember those times. Somehow, we have got to make sure that we’re not just capturing diverse fans, we need to be speaking to all of our fans. But in this Race For Equality & Change, think about the members of the community you may reach out to and the methodologies that we may change that may have a global impact on all of our fans.
“That’s going to be a message that’s going to help us across the board, whether a kid is a young White kid who may not have had any exposure to racing, or a young Black kid who may not have had any exposure to racing. But seeing the need for that young Black kid and sending the message to all is what’s going to get us not only the young Black kid, but also the young White kid. This sport needs more fans. And I say that period. No matter what color they are, no matter what race or gender they are, we need more fans.”
Learn about McMillian’s life story and additional goals for IMS, IndyCar, and IMS Productions in the expanded audio interview below: