Overcoming stereotypes: UKGC underlines the benefits of diversity

Overcoming stereotypes: UKGC underlines the benefits of diversity

Thursday, August 3, 2017 Posted by James Walker
Sarah Gardner: ‘We very much welcome initiatives focused on diversity’

Sarah Gardner, the UK Gambling Commission’s executive director for consumers, lotteries and regulatory strategy, discusses the importance of diversity across all levels of the gambling industry.

Totally Gaming: How do you evaluate the state of diversity in the UK gambling industry? How much focus should industry stakeholders place on creating a diverse working environment?

Sarah Gardner: As many of your readers will know, we have not set out for the businesses we regulate any prescriptive regulatory requirements in relation to diversity. Neither do our statutory objectives make reference to it.

However, diversity can play an important role in many of the things we do look at quite carefully as a regulator. An example is corporate governance.

As you would expect, we want to see strong corporate governance throughout the businesses we regulate. 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.

We very much welcome the initiatives in the industry focused on diversity, which can only be a good thing – particularly if these are able to join forces to maximise reach and impact across the market.

TG: Do you think customers care about what the industry is doing to improve diversity?

SG: In my experience, yes, they do. And I also wonder about people who are interested in gambling as a leisure activity but who haven’t participated because they think ‘that form of gambling is for people who are not like me’.

There are some very enduring stereotypes in gambling – even today, and regardless of what it is like in reality. For example, members of the public who I talk to often associate men with betting shops and women with bingo.

Similarly, I have come across people who have very specific ideas about the types of people who go to casinos or play the National Lottery, many of which, as I know from my work, are quite a way off the mark.

I wonder what would happen if the industry and others made some real, concerted efforts to break down those sorts of associations which I think can be off-putting to some people and, more to the point, increasingly bear little resemblance to the reality of what gambling businesses have on offer. This isn’t impossible. It has been done in other sectors.

Discussing the industry as a whole, I think there are some wider things which don’t help to erode these stereotypes. For example, I have been open in saying that I’ve been put off participating in some industry events to which I’ve been invited because I have been uncomfortable about the portrayal of, or support available to, particular groups.

This has included inappropriate venues and, for example, the role very visibly being played by women at some of the trade shows and events. If the industry is serious about appealing to a broad customer and employee base in a responsible way then these things do matter.

TG: What are the potential outcomes or benefits for the end customer when we work towards improving diversity?

SG: While commercial outcomes are for businesses to think about and not set out by the regulator, I would have thought that a key driver is a commercial one. The potential to broaden the appeal, in a responsible way, of products and services to a wider range of customers seems to me to be important for sustainable, responsible businesses.

If businesses get that right, that is good for the customers who will enjoy the products responsibly as part of their leisure time and, of course, is good for business. Similarly, there are some very significant issues in gambling which will benefit from a wide range of perspectives to work through.

This is notably the case in relation to responsible gambling issues, which affect customers in different ways, depending on their own backgrounds and circumstances. In my view, the industry would be more likely to produce better targeted solutions in circumstances where it is able to take proper account of all the different perspectives.

I think there are clear lessons from other parts of the economy that this sort of broader thinking starts in the boardroom. Boards which are not diverse will inevitably take decisions in a way which does not take into account the range of perspectives you need if you want to have broad appeal and get things right for the diverse range of people in your customer base.

TG: What is UKGC doing internally to enhance diversity within the organisation?

SG: As an organisation and as an employer, we take diversity very seriously and are proud to have people working for us who bring a very wide range of backgrounds, skills and experience.

We focus on diversity because we think it makes us more effective as an organisation, in the same way as many other organisations do, including in the gambling industry. In my experience, the mistake many organisations make in relation to diversity is seeing it as a one-off or a regular ‘tick box’ Equality Act compliance exercise performed (probably) by someone in Human Resources who counts the number of employees in different groups, such as gender, ethnicity or sexuality.

We are trying hard at the Commission to embed diversity into everything we do and to think about how we can ensure we bring to the table the very rich mix of backgrounds and experiences which we share as a team.

Over the past two years, we have been running a change programme in the organisation and we have built on this. This includes, through further development of our ways of working, looking how we can support people to do their jobs well, whatever their circumstances and through learning and development activity including ‘dignity at work’ training for everyone.

As the industry’s leading events company, Clarion Gaming continues to place strong focus on diversity. In March, we launched a programme to encourage more women to join senior level debates that are shaping the world of gaming.

Click here to view Ewa Bakun and Sadie Walters talking on Gender diversity in gaming and click here to read the blog about how Clarion is committed to ensuring a respectful representation of all sexes at ICE Totally Gaming.

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