The debate about diversity in the igaming sector goes beyond gender and what behaviour is or isn’t appropriate at a trade show. SBTech, whose own workforce is 25% female and rising, was pleased to take part in iGaming Business‘s March-April 2018 cover feature examining this key issue.
This article appeared as the cover feature in the March/April 2018 edition of iGaming Business
With igaming sat at the intersection of gambling and tech, Hannah Gannagé-Stewart explores whether it can update its culture quickly enough to stay relevant.
In one of her final addresses to the industry at ICE Totally Gaming (ICE) in London earlier this year, outgoing Gambling Commission chief executive Sarah Harrison looked back on what she termed “‘the good’, ‘the bad’ and ‘the ugly’” of her two-year tenure.
In describing “the ugly”, she alluded to the “short-termism and short-sightedness” of some parts of the industry, before admonishing the sector for sexism. With William Hill’s £6.2m fine for failing to prevent money laundering on the one hand and the controversy surrounding sexually explicit marketing tactics on the other, the industry is clearly in urgent need of a cultural makeover.
One project that seeks to help is the All-In Diversity initiative. Launched in September 2017, the industry-driven project aims to set benchmarks for diversity, equality and inclusion across the global betting and gaming sector, as well as open a debate around the issue.
All-In Diversity is expected to publish its inaugural report early this summer. Meanwhile co-founders Christina Thakor-Rankin and Kelly Kehn have been forging partnerships with businesses, including Paddy Power Betfair, Caesars, IGT and Gaming Innovation Group (GiG).
Also speaking at ICE, Thakor-Rankin issued stark warnings on the challenges faced by the industry in the short- to mid-term. Backing Harrison’s assessment of the issues surrounding an archaic and sexist culture, Thakor-Rankin warns it may repel future stakeholders and employees.
“In two years, this is going to appeal to nobody, including men, because the millennials; male, female or non-binary, want to see diversity,” she argues. While Thakor-Rankin believes that a more diverse and inclusive workforce is inevitable, as cultural change filters down the generations, she hasn’t ruled out the possibility of gambling losing ground to alternative forms of entertainment if it fails to keep up with the times.
Millennials are set to become the biggest generation ever, and the most ethnically diverse, she explains. They will make up 50% of the workforce by 2020, and 70% by 2030. Where traditional hierarchical structures have been the norm in business up until now, millennials are driving rapid change. Although they remain an achievement-oriented generation, 81% will want to set their own working hours, and 91% say they have no intention of remaining in a job for longer than three years.
Thakor-Rankin cites 70% as wanting ‘me time’ at work and 76% thinking the boss can learn from them, but these workplace preferences are perhaps less material than their values at work.
Drawing on data from a 2012 survey of college students, Thakor-Rankin flags that 58% would take a 15% salary cut to work with a company with values more aligned to their own.
This article appeared as the cover feature in the March/April 2018 edition of iGaming Business
Moreover, 45% would take the same pay cut for a job that had a social or environmental impact and 35% would do so for a company that has a commitment to corporate social responsibility. And as 45% indicated a desire to start their own businesses within five years, those that don’t find their values reflected may seek to create businesses in their own image instead. Either way, they are going to challenge the status quo.
Compounding this is the fact that they are not interested in gambling. “We are dealing with a generation for whom gambling is something their parents used to do,”
“Remember the tipping point is in two years, we need to act today to ensure that as an industry we are able to attract the investors, the employees and the customers of tomorrow, because if we can’t, gambling will just become something that we used to do.”
Thakor-Rankin’s argument extends beyond traditional concepts of diversity and inclusion. It’s a more inherently cultural issue. If forthcoming generations see no appeal in the betting and gambling industry, it will falter.
“An inability to keep up with the times has seen a whole bunch of established household names disappear – from Blockbuster to Nokia – and it’s going to happen to gambling too, so it’s not just about gender and what is appropriate at a trade show, it goes much, much further than that,” Thakor-Rankin adds.
Building the case
Harrison, like the All-In Diversity initiative, warns against tick-box political correctness, arguing instead for a more productive culture. “An industry that has diversity in all respects and at all levels will better understand its consumers and the wider public, and will be more inclusive and open to different and new ideas.
Armed with this, business can better meet the needs of its customers, respond to the worries of society and be innovative in the way it meets challenges and seizes its opportunities.” The international lottery and gaming business IGT recently appointed former Northstar Lottery Group general counsel Kim Barker Lee as its first vice-president of diversity and inclusion.
Barker Lee also sees this cultural shift as a business imperative. “IGT, like many other companies, has heard from our customers, regulators, suppliers and other stakeholders who want to see change,” she explains.
“Our customers demand the best, most innovative minds to create and deliver products and solutions for their players. Diversity and inclusion are drivers of that creativity and productivity.”
Barker Lee acknowledges that there is a distance to go in achieving diversity in gaming and equal representation for women, but believes the industry “is poised to make incredible strides in advancing diversity and inclusion”.
Pointing to a direct link between diversity and performance, she adds: “Companies that have both gender and ethnic diversity in their leadership ranks perform better.” Barker Lee’s philosophy is that employees who feel valued, respected, and acknowledged will outperform those who feel otherwise.
“Women who experience this thrive, and organisations that have engaged, empowered, and creative talent are better equipped to meet the demands of a customer base that is increasingly impatient with a lack of diversity,” she says.
“An industry that has diversity in all respects and at all levels
will better understand its consumers and the wider public,
and will be more inclusive and open to different and new ideas”
Sarah Harrison, ex-CEO Gambling Commission
The same notion was reported in a McKinsey & Company and LeanIn.Org report: Women In The Workplace 2017. It found that the top performing companies promote men and women to senior roles at almost the same rate.
In companies that perform at an average level, women are 18% less likely to be promoted to manager, while in the top performing companies, women are 4% less likely. Drawing on employee pipeline data from 222 companies, the US study found that women remain significantly under-represented across the corporate world.
Despite 57% of graduates being female, just 47% of the entry level employee pipeline was female – up 1% on 2016. Women of colour were the most under- represented group, making up just 17% of the entry-level pipeline. And the representation of women decreases significantly the further up the corporate ladder you go, with just 20% of c-suite roles held by women.
This figure is dramatically lower for women of colour, at just 3%. The numbers differ from industry to industry. Unsurprisingly, betting and gaming is not broken out in McKinsey’s report – that is where All-In Diversity’s research will come in.
However, it may be unsurprising to hear that the retail, healthcare and consumer packaged good industries had relatively high female representation, while telecoms, IT, automotive and industrial manufacturing were the least well represented.
Media and entertainment saw equal numbers of men and women entering the workforce at entry level but again numbers gradually decline further up the hierarchy, with just 27% of c-suite roles held by women.
The UK’s pay gap reporting data shows how under-represented women are at the top of corporations, with median hourly rates of pay and bonus pay figures showing that most women are employed in lower paying jobs. Where this is not the case, the figures show a stark contrast (see Figure 1).
Barker Lee cites “mindset” as one of the biggest challenges. “Unconscious bias has a significant impact on our decision-making. Our organisations need to be smarter than our human instinct to seek out the familiar; they need to drive change in policies and practices that support gender equality,” she says.
She says targeted initiatives to boost the number of women in the workforce are critical to redressing the balance, but warns that such measure are unsustainable without cultural change. “If we neglect the importance of building an inclusive workplace, we will not see the institutional, cultural, and attitudinal transformation necessary to sustain gender equality.
“Increasing the number of women in organisations and in leadership requires deliberate actions that focus on talent acquisition, development and retention, and cultural transformation.”
GiG chief executive Robin Reed says igaming is lagging behind the rest of the corporate world on diversity and it’s an issue that needs to be addressed – hence the business partnering with All-In Diversity earlier this month.
“For some reason historically there haven’t been so many women participating in tech. But that is about to change in all the other verticals within tech and it should come to gaming too,” he says.
“What we are seeing now is a fundamental shift in how the
industry behaves, how it sees itself and how it exists in society”
Robin Reed, GiG chief executive
“Tech has the power to change the world at a grand scale, gambling has existed for more than 4,000 years – nevertheless the industry is still very much the same. What we are seeing now is a fundamental shift in how the industry behaves, how it sees itself and how it exists in society.” Reed sees social responsibility as a large part of this change.
“You have to make sure that your revenues are fun and fair and that is something where I think we are, along with some other companies, doing a really good job but others in the industry are lagging behind and it’s about to change quickly,” he warns. Thakor-Rankin and Kehn hope the data being collated by All-In Diversity will enable the industry to make informed decisions about the culture they want to pursue.
“Diversity is a highly emotive topic but we can’t let the emotion blind us from where we need to go and how we get there. Data will inform and lead positive change both from an industry at large perspective and within each individual business,” Kehn says.
Anecdotally, many in igaming feel that change is already happening. SBTech chief executive Richard Carter believes he has witnessed positive change over the past 10 years. “To an extent these trends are happening across societies worldwide, but there is also little doubt that as more countries regulate their igaming sectors,
the industry is being moved forward and modernising how it works,” he explains.
Carter says 25% of SBTech’s workforce are women, with a number in senior tech positions. “On the whole I do believe igaming suppliers and operators want to ‘do the right thing’ and be seen to be promoting gender equality and diversity in their companies.
“Some of the prominent Scandinavian groups in the sector have been vocal about this and put in place initiatives to increase female representation in their companies. This should be commended and hopefully more firms will launch such schemes.” Carter does not expect the male-skewing sports betting market to change drastically in future, but thinks that should not deter diversity.
“It’s pointless to deny that sports betting is a male-dominated leisure activity, much more than bingo or parts of casino. So in terms of the consumers using our products I would be surprised if the demographics changed that much,” he says. “However, as a B2B industry I think most executives and management would agree that promoting equality and diversity across their companies is a good thing, should be encouraged and that the forward momentum on this issue continues to gather pace”.
Highlighting the international nature of firms such as SBTech, head of HR Aldema Gilad says, “the benefits of diversity are obvious in that the sharing of different life experiences enriches our teams’ knowledge and people from different cultures and backgrounds make for a more interesting work environment”.
“The imbalance between men and women in tech roles can be addressed
by educating children from an earlier age about different career paths”
Paula Cara Farcas,
Colossus Bets chief technology officer
The inherently global nature of igaming could put it in a unique position to bring more women into high level roles. While in the UK, a recent TechCity survey found that only 13% of young women aspired to work in tech, Colossus Bets chief technology officer Paula Cara Farcas says in Romania, unlike in the UK, young women are drawn to tech roles.
“The imbalance between men and women in tech roles can be addressed by educating children from an earlier age about different career paths without guiding them towards a gender specific role. “As technology is part of our culture, inspiring the next generations to learn the language of digital age will naturally close the tech gender gap,” she explains.
However, the fact remains that it is a universal change in culture that is required to keep gaming relevant. “Unless we change our attitudes to mirror those of the new generation we run the risk of alienating ourselves from customers and employees,” Thakor-Rankin urges.
“It is all well and good for ‘industry veterans’ to be banging on about tradition, but they forget that just as they turned their back on what their parents thought was appropriate, so the new generation of players and workers are also turning their back on what the veterans consider to be old-fashioned values”.