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Closing the gap

| By Aaron Noy | Reading Time: 4 minutes
The evidence for the commercial benefits of a more balanced workforce from a gender perspective is overwhelming, writes Caroline Lacey from executive search firm Odgers Berndtson.

The evidence for the commercial benefits of a more balanced workforce from a gender perspective is overwhelming, so immediate action by those making hiring decisions at all levels should be a priority, writes Caroline Lacey from executive search firm Odgers Berndtson, a strategic partner of the All-In Diversity Project.

As a firm we have noticed that more research is needed into the complex reasons for the lack of women in the gambling industry. A substantial factor stems from the fact that we are more likely to consider employment in something we can relate to and the fact of the matter is that women fundamentally participate in gambling less than men, according to the Gambling Commission.

I very much fit into the category of women who don’t gamble. Less than two years ago I had never placed a bet in my life and had extremely limited exposure to the gambling sector as a consumer. So, in October 2015, when I was asked to go on secondment to the gambling practice of Odgers Berndtson in London, I wasn’t sure what to expect.

My early experience was challenging. Getting to grips with some of the biggest operators and suppliers in the industry and the way in which they operate, was difficult as the industry has so many nuances. I had some preconceived ideas that it would be very male-centric, and initially these didn’t seem to be unfounded.

The more time I spend in the sector, however, has exposed to me that there are some exceptional women building their careers in this space. To some extent, the challenges that they have overcome to work in this male-dominated industry demonstrates the calibre of individual that they often are, and makes them all the more impressive.

If the industry is to become more diverse then we need to play our part in challenging preconceived ideas on relevant backgrounds and styles for critical senior executive roles. Equally, we need to pro-actively position the gambling industry as a sector of choice for aspiring and existing female leaders from other sectors.

From an executive search perspective, there are a number of things we can do in order to improve the gender diversity of senior management in the gambling industry;

Firstly, here at Odgers we have a small focused team working dedicated to this sector; two out of the three of us are female. For female candidates, to be able to discuss potential assignments that we are mandated on with a woman who has a deep understanding of the sector removes that initial barrier of speaking to men in an ‘all boys club’.

Additionally, we have hosted a number of ‘Women in Gaming’ lunches, partly to connect like-minded individuals in an open, but confidential, forum. Gatherings such as these give our guests the opportunity to make connections, build their network, and also to discuss the challenges they face on a daily basis (not limited, of course, to gender issues). This has been seen as an invaluable opportunity for many attendees.

A further benefit was the opportunity for individuals, starting out in a leadership career, to learn from more experienced successful female executives, and in some cases there were some mentor/mentee relationships created. These relationships are hugely valuable and evidence has shown are key components for women looking to aspire to leadership positions.

Given our exposure as a firm to other sectors, particularly consumer digital and technology we are well placed to advise organisations looking for senior talent on leftfield candidates from outside the sector. This naturally includes exceptional female candidates. As head-hunters we have work to do.

First and foremost we need to increase the number of women on our shortlists, not to satisfy ‘quotas’, but to encourage organisations to think differently. There is some exceptional female executive talent both inside and outside the sector and perhaps, our role is to ensure that this talent is promoted.

This is a challenge, but I am wholeheartedly behind it. I am keen to bring people in from outside the space, to share my enthusiasm for an industry I am increasingly growing to love.

As a business we are not in denial about the challenges that the sector faces. Whilst organisations in the industry do their utmost to ensure their business operates in an ethical and responsible way, public opinion remains sceptical. Again, according to the Gambling Commission, 39% of people believe gambling is linked to crime.

With this in mind, naturally there is reluctance from ‘outsiders’ to move into the sector (not just women) as it may limit future career prospects. This applies at all levels, from graduates to C-level. Whilst the sector is improving due to greater regulation and a vast improvement in general practices there is undeniably some way to go to challenge these preconceptions.

The sector is hugely diverse in many senses. It’s a tremendously dynamic industry, where change is the norm and fast-paced implementation of new approaches is essential in order to remain competitive, something many businesses have discovered the hard way.

Therefore, the ongoing gender gap is an anomaly and something which can, and should, be addressing now. Search firms, such as ours, are using the intelligence and data we collect to play their part in influencing organisations to drive this change.

The evidence for the commercial benefits of a more balanced workforce from a gender perspective is overwhelming, so immediate action by those who make hiring decisions at all levels should be a priority.

Laying strong diversity foundations now is vital for the future of the industry and the organisations within it.

Caroline Lacey is associate, Global Gaming Practice, at Odgers Berndtson, the UK’s largest executive search firm, based in London. She works across all senior executive and board level hires on identifying key talent for gaming businesses.

The All-In Diversity Project aims to measure, and facilitate an open and objective discussion about diversity across the entire industry on a global scale. The initiative has already secured strategic partner support from the likes of Bird & Bird, Odgers Berndtson, Clarion, Betting Jobs, and KPMG. To find out more, please visit www.allindiversityproject.com or https://www.linkedin.com/company/11109014/

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