Industry’s lack of gender diversity doesn’t reflect customer base

Industry’s lack of gender diversity doesn’t reflect customer base

Gamevy founder Helen Walton asks the industry whether its approach to women in a professional business capacity is in danger of putting off the 71% of females who are their customers.

The Gamevy team had never worked in the gambling industry before - we were complete newbies. But we do all have significant experience in a range of other industries, from tech to banking, advertising and media to traditional retail... So I want to emphasise quite how bizarre we found it the first time we stepped into ICE. The number of promotion girls seemed to be in inverse proportion to the quantity of clothing they wore. We wondered if we'd been transported back to the 1960s...

Is this because 'that's just how it is' or because 'gamblers are male'? Two excuses we're frequently heard... Both are nonsense. Women play bingo, buy lottery tickets and scratch cards more than men do. 71% of women gamble versus 75% of men - that's hardly a massive gender gap!

If an industry can't change to reflect its player base, it has an issue. If your only promotional message is of semi-naked young women then you aren't catering to large parts of your audience. Plus the overall image an industry projects of itself is telling - and it will impact on who it recruits and how it appeals to customers.

At last year's ICE, I was asked (as the female founder) who was the brains in the business. At a recent conference, there was a session asking why we didn't have many women in i-gaming - while outside there was a beauty pageant in which attendees voted on which was the most attractive young female employee (they all wore bikinis in the photos). There was also a pole dancer.

The message this industry gives to female employees is that their looks are what they'll be judged on. It gives 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. Speaking out risks being labelled stroppy, bossy, prudish, strident, lacking in fun - or any other of a dozen derogatory and belittling terms used to silence those who do so.

Gamevy - frankly - plays differently. At ICE 2016 we decided to send up the entire outdated promotional concept with a light-hearted, tongue-in-cheek idea. Instead of promo girls we had promo boys dressed in high heels and skimpy outfits. The message was simple - our promos look different, and so do our games. 

The result?

Well we were certainly talked about. We also nearly killed one of the male models who found high heels so agonising that he left modelling. He didn't get much sympathy from the promo girls, who scoffed at the idea that those were painful to walk in compared to the stillettos they had on!

We had a lot of people tell us how refreshing they found the idea - we still get people mentioning it today, nearly a year later. We had a few people tell us they were revolted by the sight of men in women's clothing. I can only assume they don't go out much in modern London. We also had a few people wonder why we weren't using gorgeous, buff male models. I explained we were gently mocking the industry rather than trying to achieve equality of objectification...

So what now?

At this year's ICE we still want to make a point. We think that gambling lacks innovation - and we think it's at least partly because the industry lacks diversity in employment (even advertising is less incestuous than gambling!). So this year, once again, we're going to be forcing people to think about what all those girls in skintight lycra or body paint says about the industry.

The idea?

All I'll say is that if you see anything at ICE that's like nothing else you've ever seen before - that makes your jaw drop and your eyes bulge... well, it's probably Gamevy.



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