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iGB Most Influential Women: last year’s list

| By Marese O'Hagan
As nominations for iGB’s Most Influential Women 2022 open, iGB speaks to some of those who made last year’s list about how their lives have changed since and who they think deserves to be featured this year.
women's diversity

In the year since Most Influential Women’s 2021 campaign, the conversation around diversity and inclusion has only continued to develop. More corporations have begun to address the continuing impact on women of issues such as menopause and the Covid-19 pandemic, in the hope of providing a more balanced workplace for all. 

Maria Naveira Sund, senior vice-president of engineering at Kambi, says that Kambi has addressed key issues presented in the last year in order to address how the workplace has shifted.  

“The pandemic has meant that as a leader you need to understand how the drivers for employees might have changed, and also how to maintain our company culture – something of which we are very proud – in a hybrid setup.” 

She believes there has been an improvement in how businesses are addressing gender imbalances, but admits there is still a long way to go.

“The outlook for diversity and inclusion has certainly been improving in the time I’ve been in the industry, with more women than ever in senior leadership positions,” she continues. “There’s certainly still some distance to travel, but it’s great to see that as an industry we are moving in the right direction.” 

Melanie Gross, senior vice-president and head of product at Golden Heart Games, says that the journey to diversity and inclusion has been rocky and stresses that attitudes towards diversity and inclusion must change. 

“Like most areas in need of change, improvements ebb and flow,” she says. “There’s still unconscious bias. I still hear of women being passed over for jobs that should have been a slam dunk.” 

From the perspective of Sarah Blackburn, director at GameOn Marketing, discussions around diversity and inclusion have been ongoing. However, she says these discussions have not resulted in actionable change. 

“I think there is a lot of talk around diversity and inclusion but I’m not sure quite how much real action is going into empowering the women within businesses outside of recruitment, gender pay gaps and social gatherings,” says Blackburn. 

“I’m in PR and I understand its power. However, it’s crucial that it’s not just talk for PR purposes, but that they are truly making a difference to help shape our industry for the better when it comes to diversity and inclusion – and I’m not just speaking about gender equality.” 

Professional impact 

For many of last year’s Most Influential Women nominees, featuring on the 2021 list has had a lasting impact on their career development. 

Dr Sally Gainsbury, director at the Gambling Research and Treatment Clinic at the University of Sydney, says that appearing as a 2021 nominee helped to advance her academic career. 

“In December 2021 I was promoted to professor from associate professor, which was a major achievement as this occurred just 11 years after my PhD was awarded, which is a rapid progress to this most senior level within academia,” she says. “I was able to include receiving this recognition on my promotion application which was terrific evidence to support the influence of my research and my work on the broader field at an international level.” 

For Charmaine Mabuza, chief executive officer at South African lottery firm Ithuba, her appearance on the 2021 list brought about a greater sense of drive and motivation – and developed not only her career, but also the trajectory of Ithuba. 

“Being featured in Most Influential Women 2021 has influenced my career from a motivational perspective,” she says. “It has fuelled the drive to excel even further, and to do more, to continue to grow not only in the gaming sector, but in the larger socio-economic sphere.

“However, more importantly, the Most Influential Women feature has also opened doors for me to represent Ithuba at international conferences and to be part of a team of gaming business experts on panels to discuss pertinent lottery-based conversations; therefore the international recognition has definitely opened many doors.” 

Wider influence 

Being featured as one of the Most Influential Women in gaming has allowed last year’s nominees to see the scope of influence it brings to others. Laura McAllister Cox, chief compliance officer at Rush Street Gaming, says that the recognition has had an impact on women around her. 

“I would say more than influencing my own career, being selected as one of the Most Influential Women 2021 has made me realise how much my career is influencing other women,” she says. “So many female colleagues reached out to congratulate me and say how inspiring it was to see what I’ve achieved in an industry that is dominated by male leadership.” 

While those featured last year have felt the positive impact of Most Influential Women on their lives and careers, it will soon be time to announce the 2022 nominees.  

In the spirit of passing the baton, McAllister Cox has two women in mind for Most Influential Women’s 2022 list. 

“Tammi Barlow, director of corporate social responsibility, Rush Street Interactive, and Lauren Seiler, associate VP of investor relations and development, Rush Street Interactive,” she says.

“I have tremendous respect for both of these women, not only for the wealth of experience and knowledge they bring to RSI but also their strong leadership skills.” 

Like McAllister Cox, Gross had a similar experience after being featured as a nominee. 

“It was a joy to see the outreach from my family, friends and professional network who wished to celebrate and share the achievement,” she said. “They’ve supported my igaming journey for 20 years and have all played a part on the path to where we are today.” 

In turn, Gross names FanDuel CEO Amy Howe as her top pick for Most Influential Women 2022. 

“I’ve been impressed by Amy and her focus on the path to profitability, responsible gaming and improving diversity throughout gaming,” she says. “That diversity initiative spans across hiring, equality for female athletes, and the encouragement of women participating in sports betting.” 

Claire Osborne, vice-president of interactive at Inspired, agrees that featuring on Most Influential Women was beneficial to both her career and personal development. 

“It’s been great for rekindling relationships with old contacts as well as introducing me to a whole range of new people who may not have heard of me or Inspired previously,” she says. “I’ve also had more opportunity to get involved with people generally promoting women in the technology industries.” 

As for whether the conversation surrounding diversity and inclusion has improved since 2021, Osborne sees a gradual improvement, which she believes will have positive outcomes for the industry.  

“I think it keeps gradually progressing forwards. There are more and more women at the top which will always be beneficial, especially for those aspiring to emulate their success.” 

Nominations for iGB’s Most Influential Women 2022 close on 28 October. Nominate someone here.

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