WrB London: Diversity, Inclusion and the Bottom Line

WrB London: Diversity, Inclusion and the Bottom Line

Diversity and inclusion

In the build-up to launching WrB London – Responsible Gambling, CSR and the Bottom Line, conference producer Layla Ali looks at one of the key focuses of the event, diversity and inclusion, and discusses what the gambling industry could do to improve on it.

On 22 May I attended KnowNow’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion in the Gambling Industry event in London. It was a great event; well organised, positive and informative, and it got me thinking more deeply about diversity and inclusion in gambling. More specifically, it made me question what more the industry could do to promote diversity and inclusion, and how Clarion, as an events company, could help. 

The first presentation of the day was by the Chief Executive of the Gambling Commission, Neil McArthur. He spoke about assumptions and unconscious bias, how innate and deeply held they are, and the importance of being aware of your own. Quoting a 2016 headline from The Guardian, Neil shared his experiences of being stereotyped as a so-called “pale, stale male”, and talked about how the realities of his career path and the challenges he faced are not reflected by his LinkedIn profile, or biographies published about him. In the first instance, it was very valuable to hear someone from a traditionally privileged demographic talk about experiencing discrimination. Not because he experienced it but rather, because it came as a much-needed reminder that diversity is about much more than just accepting another group into the status quo. So often, those of us who are fighting for equality or representation get tied up in our own struggles, and it can be easy to forget about bringing others up with us. Neil’s speech was a prime example of how equality and inclusion applies not just to gender, but to socio-economic and educational backgrounds as well. 

When it came to tackling unconscious bias, Neil expressed gratitude to those who had taken a chance on him during his career, and mentioned that he had often had female bosses. Whilst of course the quality of a boss depends on their personality and not their gender, the idea of a diverse interview panel and management team was identified throughout the day as crucial for building a more diverse workforce. In Neil’s example, the fact that a diverse group was in charge of hiring meant that the concept of ‘the ideal candidate’ was broader and opened the opportunity up to more people than a homogenous panel would. 

This certainly rings true to the two most recent interviews I had before starting work at Clarion. The first was an experience I have subsequently referred to as ‘the Celtic incident’, during which my interviewer told me that I was nothing like the profile they had created of me based on my Muslim name and that I looked very “Celtic”… whatever that means (suggestions and interpretations welcome). What struck me was that once the interviewer had seen me, realised I am white and do not wear a hijab, they felt they could joke with me about racial profiling. They assumed we would share a sense of humour because of our shared skin tones, completely bypassing a consideration of ethnic and cultural diversity. 

In contrast, the interview process for my current job was carried out by three different people, from diverse backgrounds and of mixed genders, and no racial slurs were involved. Although it has been said that diversity engenders discomfort, as people do not feel an immediate connection to those who are different from them, in my experience a lack of diversity makes individuals who do not come from a traditionally privileged background feel uncomfortable, and discourages them from certain choices. This is especially significant when we take into account the statistics published by All-In Diversity about the weight of importance given to diversity and inclusion by millennials and Generation X. 

Speaking of future generations, the next presentation of the day by Rachel Jones, Chair of the Board of Trustees at YGAM, focused on equal education. Rachel has done a lot of work to encourage young women to study STEM subjects and translate their studies into STEM or gambling careers. Rachel’s emphasis on the value of equal education – and a statement later in the day about the impact of training on a workforce by Anna Hemmings from GamCare – brought up the question of which educational tools are most effective in creating a more inclusive work culture. For example, what can we do about the fact that many events and training courses on diversity and inclusion attract audiences who are predominantly already invested in the topic, rather than an audience who is on the fence or opposed to change? Instead of preaching to the converted, what can we do to bring a more diverse group of perspectives to the table? One approach would be to apply the same tactics as have been applied to trying to encourage young women to study STEM subjects. Rather than approaching people who have experienced first-hand the struggle for representation and equality in the workplace, we could structure programmes around traditionally privileged groups and target them with our marketing and sales campaigns. But wouldn’t this kind of approach be in direct opposition to the very concept of diversity and inclusion? If the idea is equal representation, surely targeting one group to the detriment of others is counterintuitive. So, the challenge remains. How do we encourage traditionally privileged groups to participate in work around diversity? Especially when, as Prof. Michael Kimmel so accurately said, “privilege is invisible to those who have it,” (again, suggestions welcome!).

Another incredibly interesting panel at the event focused on the business case for diversity, a topic that our Head of Engagement and Industry Insight, Ewa Bakun, wrote on a couple of years ago. The statistics that have stuck with me from the day are that a 10% increase in gender diversity in a company typically boosts revenue by 3.5%, and that the inclusion of just one woman on the Board of Directors of a company improves performance by 26% compared to companies with an all-male board. 

One of our main challenges as producers drafting content that will generate interest amongst the industry is how we pitch the importance of diversity and this topic was also covered in the panel. Should we focus solely on the financial benefits of inclusivity – the moral and ethical necessity of it – or a mixture of the two? It would appear that working on a moral basis only is relatively ineffectual given the snail-like pace of progress over recent years. On the other hand, reducing the issue to its impact on profitability, although perhaps more likely to convince those responsible for the bottom line, undermines its significance and can encourage a box-ticking approach, which defeats the point entirely. In fact, logic would surely suggest that maintaining the dichotomy between ethics and commerciality would gather a more diverse group of stakeholders in equality and inclusion, simply because it represents a more diverse range of perspectives. This, however, brings us back to our original challenge of how we encourage broader participation in diversity discussions to begin with. 

So the cycle continues, and we are still left questioning what more we can do as an industry. Innovation often comes up with regards to increasing diversity and, as Lydia Barbara of Microgaming argued, it is important to recognise the flaccidity of the word ‘innovation’ and, where possible, to be more specific about what exactly you mean by it. The production team at Clarion Gaming has come to the same conclusion of late. We have actually gone as far as to add ‘innovation’ to a list of words to avoid. Granted, it can be hard to think of an alternative, especially when deadlines for copy or agendas are looming, but it really does force you to think about what you want from the words you are using. In a poll, Lydia asked the audience whether they meant creative, disruptive or value-adding. The question turned out to be revelatory because when looked at like this, it demonstrates that diversity can be promoted in many different ways. 

Indeed Microgaming’s Idea Factory, championed by Lydia herself, is not only a pathway to innovation; here meaning creativity and added value brought by new technology, but also a pathway to diversity. Submissions for ideas are anonymous, and they are judged by a diverse panel of experts, underlining the idea that diversity means including everyone regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, religion, education, and personality. And, to reinforce Neil McArthur’s point, it proves that the ‘ideal candidate’ can be anyone. Anonymity would certainly have made many of my interview experiences more comfortable (for the interviewer probably more so than myself), and had my application arrived without a name, we might even have avoided the Celtic Incident… 

So with all of these points in mind, what can we do to promote and improve the diversity and inclusivity of the gambling industry? Well, perhaps the most important first step is realising that progress is going to be slow. Outside of a gambling-specific focus, British women only got the vote a hundred years ago, apartheid only fell in 1991, the UK Equal Marriage Act was only passed in 2013, and Ireland repealed the Eighth Amendment, which limits women’s reproductive rights, on 25th May this year. 

As such, we must remember that it is okay to start small. At the KnowNow event, the idea of ‘Diversity Allies’ was mentioned, a group of people who are designated to speak out when they see or hear behaviours that are sexist, racist, homophobic or otherwise. Not only is it of vital importance to use your voice to protect others, but the idea of creating a support network goes a long way towards creating a more inclusive environment by allowing others to be themselves without fear of discrimination. 

The earlier mentioned diverse interview panels, giving candidates more space to be themselves without worrying about having to meet certain requirements that are, in fact, out of their control can also help. 

If a woman or someone from a minority group has a good idea in your team or in your office, shout about it, brag on their behalf; it gets them noticed and a positive reaction encourages them to use their voice more. 

Reverse mentoring was a tool that Micky Swindale of KPMG was very enthusiastic about, because it brings people together from very diverse groups who might not otherwise get the chance to meet and engage with each other. She also pointed out how important it was to create a formal structure for this to avoid the difficulties sometimes presented by office politics, another crucial aspect of workplace culture to consider. 

Last but not least (in fact, most importantly) the equality, diversity and inclusion conversation is about everyone. Women, men, people from black and minority ethnic groups, the LGBTQIA community, different religious groups, the list goes on. Bearing this in mind and noticing a lack of representation from these groups is the first and most important step in making a change. Join our diversity and inclusion workshop at WrB London to find out what you can do to help. Remember: “privilege is invisible to those who already have it”.


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