Calling all exhibitors: Time to change how women are represented at gaming shows

Calling all exhibitors: Time to change how women are represented at gaming shows

“Clarion Events, organisers of ICE Totally Gaming, are committed to ensuring a respectful representation of all sexes at the show. In the spirit of the 21st century when both men and women play strategic and decision-making roles in businesses, we encourage all our exhibitors to be mindful of how their support staff, promoting their products at the show, is represented to avoid any offense and stereotyping.”

This is the paragraph that we at Clarion Events, organisers of ICE Totally Gaming, added to the exhibitors’ manual, a document our exhibitors receive with guidelines to live by when planning their physical presence at the show. The statement states the obvious, you might say, and there is nothing ground-breaking about it. Well, if you walk the aisles of ICE, and many, if not all, other gambling and gaming shows, you’ll understand there is still work to be done and the above needs to be stated over and over again.

From pole dancers, cage dancers, beauty pageants, body painted hostesses to nurses – this comprises the female representation in gaming shows. Yes, it sells (cheaply) by getting the attention of male visitors (who are, I admit, the prevailing majority) and bringing them to the stands (really). But I doubt it speaks to the growing numbers of female managers, directors, CEOs, decision-makers. They’re just left there without visual stimuli and have to be satisfied with the attractiveness of the products exhibited. How boring and uninspired - especially for those exhibiting! Quick search of the ICE visitor base brings up 16% female participation at the 2016 show.

As part of the team working on the world’s largest gambling show, I have to admit ICE is no different. And while personally I think we can effect change through regulations, this is perhaps not the route we advocate for the show. While we don’t want to act as moral police and enforce strict dress code rules for support staff, we can make recommendations (like the one above), expose various points of view, encourage different approaches and applaud positive, more progressive examples.

Like the one adopted by Gamevy at ICE 2016 where the male models were clearly pushing the boundaries of how we stereotype men and women in our industry. Helen Walton of Gamevy recollects their first visit to ICE in 2015 where ‘the number of promotion girls seemed to be in inverse proportion to the quantity of clothing they wore’, giving an overall impression that women are ‘only welcome if they play by certain rules - including accepting a certain sleaziness and objectification of women as standard’.

She continued: “So in 2016, we decided to send up the entire outdated promotional concept with a light-hearted, tongue-in-cheek idea. The message was clear - our promos look different, and so do our games.”

Helen also goes on to link the lack of innovation to the lack of diversity in employment in her article for TotallyGaming.com.

Sustained and lasting change takes time and is a process, which I hope we can contribute to. Ultimately, ICE Totally Gaming is a once-in-a-year celebration of the creativity, innovation, integrity and progress in the industry – let’s hope this can happen at all levels.

In the spirit of that change, I would like to challenge the 2017 ICE exhibitors to think twice before they choose how they want their promo staff to represent their product, to push the boundaries just like Gamevy did last year and demonstrate that they have a multi-dimensional view of women: as entrepreneurs, business partners, managers, bosses and leaders, not just esthetical additions to their presence at the show.

I will walk the show in February 2017 looking for such more inventive, progressive, different stands. But as you know ICE is huge and I might not get a chance to get to your stand, so do send me the images after the show or tweet with hashtag #GamingEquality – I definitely don’t want to miss the change happening in front of us.

Read Helen Walton's blog 'Industry’s lack of gender diversity doesn’t reflect customer base' here  

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