Welcome to part one of our Most Influential Women rundown for 2023. Over the next three days, we will reveal which nominees came through our challenging longlisting and shortlisting processes and emerged triumphant as part of our Top 10 group this year.
We launched this year’s Most Influential Women campaign days after iGB L!VE 2023, the best-attended iteration of the mid-year show on record. Submissions were open across July and August, against the exciting backdrop of the Women’s World Cup.
Writing for our all-female iGB L!VE issue of iGB magazine, Christina Thakor-Rankin – co-founder of the All-In Diversity Project and one of iGB’s Most Influential Women of 2022 – discussed whether operators were taking full advantage of everything the Women’s World Cup had to offer.
After the nominations closed, our esteemed panel met to consider how the nominees had displayed influence across the industry, as well as in their professional lives, over the previous 12 months. This year brought a high standard of nominations – one that left our judges pondering hard on who to place in the final Top 10.
Without further ado and in no particular order, here are iGB’s first four Most Influential Women of 2023. The remaining six nominees will be revealed over the next two days.
Founder, Better Change
Victoria Reed learned of her nomination at a critical time for organisations such as hers – during Safer Gambling Week. Better Change looks to marry safer gambling with the day-to-day necessities of running a gambling business. So what better time to recognise the woman behind it all?
Reed calls her nomination “a true honour”. But outside of her own recognition, she sees being named among iGB’s Most Influential Women of 2023 as celebrating wider representation for Better Change and sustainable play.
“To be considered among such an accomplished and esteemed group as this is humbling, unexpected and a true honour,” she says. “Since day one, we’ve faced huge challenges from all angles and have rightly had to demonstrate that our Positive Play approach is one that supports not only players but also operators and that we don’t have to sacrifice one for the other.
“For me, this award means that we’re seeing Positive Play resonate and, while there’s still a long way to go, we’re so proud to be playing a small part in the sustainability of the industry that we all love dearly.”
Reed recognises the importance of mentorship and connection – and uses this as a way to connect with other women in the industry.
“I’m a true believer in a meritocracy and always try to support anyone who is working hard and hustling to make a difference,” she says. “I have been fortunate enough to have mentored and championed a number of remarkable women throughout my career and always make time to try and share what little experience I have with them to encourage them on their own journeys.”
On a more personal level Reed understands the repercussions of not receiving the necessary support and guidance.
“Above all, I know what it’s like to be supported but I also know what it’s like to be overlooked and exploited,” she continues.
“Those experiences have made sure that no matter who I’m working with, I always stay true to my own values and try to be the sort of support I would have loved to have had.”
Partner, Harris Hagan
Bahar Alaeddini’s motivation for success goes right back to her childhood, where she learned the value of hard work and striving towards your dreams.
“Experiencing adversity in my childhood is the thing that motivated me for the simple reason that I wanted a different life than I had been given and more control over my destiny,” she says. “I wanted to make my own choices, starting with studying well in my teens, and would work as hard as I could to have the best opportunities.
“I learned persistence and resilience, which certainly helped in the early stage of my legal career when faced with fierce competition and repeated rejections!”
To say Alaeddini is now well established in her career would be an understatement. But she admits she has faced challenges in her professional life, particularly when “dealing with a difficult person, where I felt their gender and racial biases were clouding the way they treated me”.
“Once I put aside my personal frustrations, I overcame the challenge, got on with the job and realised that through no fault of mine, not everyone can be pleased,” she explains.
As for the secrets to her success, Alaeddini says this is not a straightforward concept.
“There really isn’t a secret sauce as success is both a personal and continual journey and it is something that I am still navigating!”
Looking towards the future of equity in gaming, Alaeddini believes it is important to show women that they can have a work-life balance – if this is fostered by the right work environment.
“I am proud that at Harris Hagan we have equity: 50% of both our partners and lawyers are female,” she says. “My hope is that women coming through the ranks in gambling compliance and/or legal roles both in-house and in private practice see that in the right environment you can enjoy what you do in your career, be good at it, have a personal life, including a family and find balance.”
Deputy chief executive, GB Gambling Commission
For Sarah Gardner, being recognised as one of iGB’s Most Influential Women is an achievement both personally and professionally.
“It’s hugely significant for me personally and very humbling because I’ve been honoured to meet some of the women who have received this award in the past and they have all been very impressive indeed,” she says. “However, I also think the award is a reflection of a wider team effort at the Gambling Commission.”
With her career at the Commission spanning 14 years, Gardner has had a front-row seat to witness gender equality initiatives improve parity in the workplace.
“The Commission is made up of around 50% women, which is great,” she explains. “While that’s been the case for some time, it used to be possible to see some pretty thick glass ceilings in some places and there have been various points where I was the only woman on the executive team.
“Now, that is no longer the case and we have many fantastic women doing brilliant jobs at all levels in the organisation.”
Gardner recognises the difficulties that can come with being outnumbered in a professional environment. As such, she says she makes a concerted effort to encourage underrepresented groups to speak up.
“Like many women, I’ve often felt that I have to work much harder than most people to make myself heard in a conversation,” says Gardner. “It’s been a frequent event in my career that I would be the only woman in a room full of men. That still happens today and it does make for a different dynamic which can be challenging.
“I’ve learned to believe in what I can bring to discussions and debates and I always try to encourage colleagues to do the same, especially those who might be holding back because they are conscious that they aren’t like others in the room, whether that is because of gender, ethnicity, sexuality or any other reason.”
Group CEO, MyAffiliates
Making iGB’s Most Influential Women 2023 list holds great significance for Clemence Dujardin.
Dujardin believes it’s not uncommon for many women to operate in a default setting, moving forward without pausing to appreciate the journey and accomplishments achieved along the way.
“This award serves as a poignant reminder to women everywhere, regardless of their pursuits, to take a moment to reflect on their paths and acknowledge their resilience,” says Dujardin.
She adds that the recognition provides her with an “invaluable opportunity to revisit the long and challenging road” that has led her to this point in her career.
The CEO, who joined the affiliate software platform in 2012, has built her path through hard work and consistency. “My compass is a clear vision, guiding me and ensuring my goals are always in focus,” she says.
Yet, Dujardin admits that success is a team effort and highlights the importance of a support system in her career. “The people around me are like the backbone of my journey, emphasising the value of a solid and supportive network,” she explains.
“Fuelling my journey is a desire for empowerment, which comes with toughness and resilience. I can be hard-headed but I try to balance it out with a hefty dose of empathy, always remembering the human side of every challenge.”
A crucial part of her success stems from making sure those around her feel part of the journey, as well as being “valued and understood”.
“I firmly believe that real success is a group effort, built on inclusivity and collaboration,” she says.
Juggling work and a personal life is something Dujardin has found challenging to balance – as has dealing with labels.
“Whether it is people making assumptions based on my gender or where I come from, breaking these stereotypes has become a big part of what I stand for,” she continues.
“It is not just about proving them wrong for myself but also for others facing the same kind of judgments.”
Another struggle Dujardin has felt on her journey is the biases that exist for women in the industry. She highlights the subtle and not-so-subtle prejudices that can make things difficult.
“Whether it’s in getting hired or just in day-to-day interactions, I’ve seen the impact of bias. Now, I try to make sure people are aware of it and work towards a fairer and more inclusive space.”
Profiles by Dan Kleiner and Marese O’Hagan