Hamilton won his sixth Formula One world championship last year, while Messi, who was not present at the awards ceremony, won his sixth Ballon d’Or.
It was the first time in the history of awards, often seen as the sports Oscars, that the title of Sportsman of the Year was shared.
“I grew up in a sport that really gave meaning to my life,” said Hamilton.
“I’m so grateful for what he gave me. But in reality I grew up in a sport that doesn’t have much or no diversity.
“I think it is a problem that we have to continually face. It is all our responsibility to use our platform for this, only for this, really pushing for gender equality, gender inclusion and really making sure that we are committed and that we are really trying to represent where the world is today “.
The W series – an all-female car championship – was launched last year and won by British driver Jamie Chadwick.
Only six women have ever attended an F1 Grand Prix weekend.
Hamilton is the third driver to win the Sportsman of the Year award after Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel, while Messi is the first footballer.
America’s Biles will be one of the leading athletes to watch at the upcoming Tokyo Olympics after winning four golds and a bronze in Rio 2016.
“It means the world to me,” said Biles, 22, receiving his honor.
“This is my third Laureus award, so I’m really grateful.
“I want to congratulate all the others nominated and I also want to thank my family and friends for all their support over the years.”