As diversity, equality and inclusion (DEI) initiatives rise in popularity across the industry, it is clear that companies are leaning into creating a more balanced environment in their workplaces.
This is more important now than ever – earlier this year, the All-In Diversity Project’s All-Index report revealed that fewer women are entering the industry than ever before.
Hilary Stewart-Jones, CEO of Skywind, believes that a number of stipulations must be in place to ensure more diversity in the gaming industry, and encourage more women to join.
“More visible women advocates and spokespeople at a senior level; sensible maternity policies which positively discourage a premature return to work and address unconscious bias against performance on return to work… and, critically, for the gambling industry at least, to continue its good work in eradicating its image that women are only there to promote products or entertain,” she says.
Lucy Owen agrees that encouraging women to enter into the industry must centre around diversity and inclusion efforts.
“Make diversity and inclusion a core and strategic value,” she says. “Demonstrably improve the balance of diverse, relatable and approachable people in board and senior management positions.
“Invest in the next generation of talent (for everyone) by providing opportunities, mentoring, training and development.”
She also emphasises the importance of simply speaking to women who are considering a career in gaming, to “find out what they need and want”.
Tatyana Kaminskaya, head of game aggregator at Softswiss says that initiatives like Most Influential Women help the industry to redress gender imbalance – but adds that employers must also demonstrate how women contribute and thrive in their workplaces.
“I think initiatives such as the one I am involved in right now, having today’s interview, is one of those steps,” she says. “For me, it’s also about the right advertisements when you are recruiting, because when you choose your next employer and place of work, you can’t possibly know what it is like to actually work there.
“So I think it’s important to actually show some successful cases of women working in your business, to get across to strong potential candidates that this is a professional and understanding workplace that they can thrive in.”
Isabelle Falque-Pierrotin, chair of French regulator l’Autorité Nationale des Jeux (ANJ), says that she is always careful to “respect the balance of parity” within the ANJ’s workplace, revealing that it is currently made up of 47% women – a testament to her commitment to the cause.
Addressing the issue
Creating an industry that welcomes all people requires a positive and adaptable environment, particularly from those in senior positions. Ciara Nic Liam, gaming product director at Entain, says that being a mentor to other women means delving into what inspires them to succeed.
“Some of the key areas I focus on are understanding my mentee’s motivation – not everyone in a company wants to be the next CEO, success looks different to everyone,” she says. “Offering manageable projects, and checking in with them regularly – don’t let them struggle alone.
“Most importantly, let people know when they are doing well. Everyone needs this.”
Olabimpe Akingba, executive secretary at the Association of Nigerian Bookmakers, says workplaces must do more to foster that welcoming environment by prioritising practical ways that women can feel supported.
“Companies need to come up with policies that support women,” she says. “They need to be intentional about it and not just do it at face value, really creating policies that let them grow within the industry.
“We need to bring them in to the management level. There is strength in diversity as I say, and any company serious about growth should be serious about implementing policies that enforce gender parity.”
Fostering the environment
While creating an accessible environment for all those who wish to enter the gaming industry is imperative, Kim Barker Lee, chief legal officer at Bally’s believes that attention should still be paid to those who are already making waves within the sector.
“The key to increased representation for women in our industry does not rest exclusively on new hires – it is about the culture, providing opportunities for those already in the door and breaking through leadership mindsets, behaviours and systems that impede equity for women, people of colour and others underrepresented or underestimated in our industry,” says Lee.
Luisa Woods, vice-president of marketing, gaming and entertainment at Delaware North agrees, believing that actions speak louder than words when it comes to DEI initiatives in the gaming industry.
“It’s not just being open, being welcoming, it’s about really needing to actively embrace the understanding that we have to proactively take steps,” she says. “I have, just over the last year or so, been greatly privileged to get to participate in my own company Delaware North’s DEI advisory council, establishing diversity, equity and inclusion policies throughout the organisation.
“And the reason that I got involved; I was fortunate enough to take part in a conversation about diversity in our workforce. I reached out to a senior member of our HR team and said that it wasn’t something I had typically thought about, because I was typically the only woman in the room.”
Woods views this experience as a prime example of what the modern gambling industry can offer in terms of diversity, and how far it has come.
“Recognising how isolating that was for me when I look back; and realising that we’re in a place where there’s sufficient momentum, sufficient focus and sufficient recognition for the incredible value of actually pursuing diversification in leadership.”