A case for gender equality in gaming

A case for gender equality in gaming

Statistics prove that greater gender diversity provides a boost to business. So Ewa Bakun asks what would you do, or are already doing, to boost the participation of women in the gaming industry?

I had a unique experience in Las Vegas last month. I went to a conference – the 16th International Conference on Gambling and Risk Taking at the Mirage Resort & Casino – which instead of focusing on business strategies concentrated on academic research.

It was refreshing as there was less speculation and crystal ball reading and way more evidence-based findings. Yet, the two worlds of academia and industry hardly ever meet, which I find surprising considering how hungry the industry is for numbers, stats and evidence. We need to find a way to bridge the two for mutual benefit.

One area however that hasn’t seen enough facts and evidence is female leadership in gaming and its impact on business performance, possibly because there are not many women in leadership positions in gaming, and business in general. This is something we have all known, observed, and talked about for years – yet, things have barely changed during that time on the leadership levels.

"How can we sit and say we’re moving toward equality, when in fact we’re not moving at all?”, asked Jan Jones Blackhurst, Caesars’ SVP Government Relations and Corporate Responsibility, in her keynote speech at the UNLV conference, in which she shook up the audience with the power of stats highlighting gender inequality and bias in business.

This topic is close to my heart. In fact I blogged about it last December on LinkedIN, making a case for more women to speak across all our business events.

Jan Jones’ presentation enlisted a number of interesting statistics. I feel tempted to quote all of them as they’re so telling and powerful, but just a few illustrate the influence of women on business and highlight the startling gap between men and women:

  • For every two men in the U.S. that receive a BA degree, three women will do the same
  • Advancing women’s equality in the workplace could add $12 trillion to the global economy by 2025 – an additional $2.1 - $4.3 trillion to U.S. GDP alone
  • Companies with gender diversity in senior management report 36% better growth in stock prices and 46% better return in equity
  • A full-time working woman will lose $443,360 in a 40-year period due to the wage gap and work 12 years longer than a man to make it up
  • Women earn 79¢ for every dollar paid to their comparable male counterpart, significantly less for women of colour
  • 85% of board members from Fortune 500 companies are white males

There is very little research on women leaders in gaming, but out of the group of the largest operators and suppliers in the USA, only MGM Resorts International has a board comprising at least 30% female directors.

Considering that 70-80% purchasing decisions are made directly or indirectly by women and that companies with female representation have proven to perform better (53% higher ROE, 32% higher ROS and 66% higher ROI), why has so little changed, asked Jan Jones?

The answer emphasises the need for proper research to be done to combat the gender bias, conscious or unconscious, and to benchmark the current perception against reality. For example, a leanin.org and McKinsey study of 30,000 employees across 118 companies indicated just 12% of men felt that women had fewer opportunities to advance; of over 1,000 Americans polled, 9 in 10 thought there were more women leading major companies than the 20 who actually do.

Only when we realise that there is a problem, can we address it by putting goals in place that will keep us accountable (currently 56% of C-level executives report their companies do not have a formalised goals for achieving gender parity).

The need for clear goals was one of the key conclusions of Jan’s presentation for me, but we also need to involve men in the conversation as well. The business world is shaped by men at the moment, so to effect change they do need to be at the table; we can’t keep talking about this issue in isolation.

To be successful, we all need to illustrate the overwhelmingly positive impact of female participation in leadership and workforce on business and while some evidence is already there, we need more – another reason to have more research looking into this area.

Setting, and achieving, goals can only make a difference if there is greater transparency. Human Rights Committee ‘equality index’ rating businesses on their LGBT friendly politics can serve as an inspiring example: the LGBT community leveraged their buying power to change business practices – why can’t we have a similar equality index for gender equity, asked Jan Jones?

Richard Schuetz, in an article written for Global Gaming Business, has suggested that regulators have a role in helping achieve greater transparency, and equal pay (see the article here). Unfortunately, the proposed Paycheck Fairness Act, introduced every year in U.S. Congress since 1994, never passed, but that shouldn’t stop us in self regulating, imposing our own goals and objectives: What would you do to solve gender equity in gaming-hospitality, Jan Jones concluded, giving us all responsibility to make a difference.

What would you do to solve gender equity in gaming-hospitality? As I declared in my LinkedIn article, as someone who puts industry conferences together, I can commit to highlighting this issue at our events and giving greater representation to female speakers.

But what would you do?

I know some gaming organisations started implementing specific policies to minimise the gender gap: NetEnt have their 50/50 goal to be achieved by 2020, Gamesys, at the recent GamCrowd conference at the Hippodrome, talked about their initiatives to encourage men to play a more active role in raising families as a way to increase female participation in business.

What specific active efforts are other companies in gaming making and who is achieving success in minimising gender gap? We all know it’s a long process, but it requires action to effect change.

Please let us know your ideas, implementations and successes so we spread the best practice. Contact me at ewa.bakun@clarionevents.com with suggestions, commitments and ideas. 

All stats have been taken from the presentation delivered by Jan Jones of Caesars Entertainment at the 16th International Conference on Gambling and Risk Taking.
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