Diversity and inclusion in gaming: Are we making progress?

Diversity and inclusion in gaming: Are we making progress?

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Clarion Gaming’s Head of Content, Ewa Bakun, looks at the evolving conversation on gender diversity in the gambling sector.

Perhaps it is the Blue Car Syndrome (or Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon in scientific terms, where a concept or thing you just found out about suddenly seems to crop up everywhere), but it does seem that the gambling sector is finally starting to notice that there is a problem with the representation of women through their brands and a lacking gender diversity in work force.

Over a year ago I was called out by a well known industry regulator on the small number of female speakers that we feature at our conferences. He was right to point out that our speaker panels have, with few exceptions, very few women. It was back then that we started looking at the diversity KPIs and goals to increase the number of speakers from underrepresented groups. We are far from achieving our goals, but have made some strides with conferences such as WrB Responsible Gambling 2016 or Juegos Miami 2017, which had 48% and 25% female speakers respectively. We know that, just like gambling companies in their recruitment strategies, we need to make an extra effort to identify and recruit more women to our expert panels. Without being over confident about our influence, we think we can make a difference by showcasing women as experts in many key areas such as technology, marketing, strategy, regulation or management – and perhaps this way help in their career progression.

Because it’s the progression that often becomes a challenge. Data presented by the ECA’s Janny Wierda at the Diversity & Leadership in Gaming seminar at this year’s ICE Totally Gaming, based on a survey done amongst the ECA’s membership, indicates that the gender gap increases the higher the ranks in organisation to end up at 83% men and 17% women at the board level. Clearly, a change of working culture and more support is needed for women to continue their progression in the organisational ranks. Top management plays a critical role to initiate and drive that change. That’s why on the International Women’s Day we asked the industry’s CEOs and Directors to recommend female experts within their organisations to be invited to speak and thus build their profile in the sector – an important factor that can be very helpful in advancing their careers. We have so far had a limited response to the initiative, which remains open.

A few weeks ago, I sat down with a group of senior executives of the UK Gambling Commission, who opened the meeting commenting on their experience of ICE, in particular their disappointment with how women are represented at the show. While it was a negative comment on the event we organise, I was pleased to find out the UK GC views these issues in a wider context of social responsibility, which has been so much of the Commission’s focus lately. While I had urged our exhibitors at ICE to be mindful of how sexes are represented at the show (the article was well received on official channels like LinkedIn with expressions of support directed to me, but I am aware of an uproar expressed on other less formal social platforms that I personally didn’t have access to), who best than the industry regulator to set the tone of seriousness and relevance that the industry should be paying attention to?  Sarah Gardner, the UK Gambling Commission’s executive director for consumers, lotteries and regulatory strategy, in an interview with totallygaming.com said that while UK GC doesn’t set out prescriptive regulatory requirements in reference to diversity, the organisation does see its value as part of the strong corporate governance. ‘Given that there is a growing body of evidence that more diverse boards and teams make better decisions and play a role in delivering good governance, then diversity is of interest to us in that very important respect’, she said.

I first heard that evidence powerfully quoted during the UNLCV’s 16th International Conference on Gambling and Risk Taking in Las Vegas when Caesars’ Jan Jones presented an entire list of statistics denouncing the gap between women and men in leadership, remuneration and general workforce. But the most revealing and relevant statistic was about the benefit of having women on board levels: 53% higher ROE, 32% higher ROS and 66% higher ROI. Jan Jones pointed out the importance of gathering evidence to combat the incorrect perceptions and unconscious bias that drives a lot of recruitment decisions. Only then can we put goals in place as a measure of effecting change. More on this here.

That’s why it’s great to see the various industry initiatives popping out to increase diversity and inclusion in the gambling sector, in particular those that will strive to better understand the current situation by collecting and comparing data on workforce diversity, salaries and recruitment approach to create an index and then identify the path to progress. Only if we understand the scale of the problem, can we truly address it. From soon-to-launch All In Diversity that aims to achieve just that, through dedicated diversity initiatives led by industry associations like the ECA and NCF, to mentorship programmes like Global Gaming Women, there is a clear willingness to address the lack of gender diversity in the industry and we at Clarion also hope to play a role.  Expect a lot more to come.

Watch the video below in which Clarion Gaming’s Ewa Bakun and Sadie Walters talk about their effort to improve gender diversity in the gambling sector.

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