As the world bade farewell to its most celebrated daughter this week, Queen Elizabeth 11, it seems more than apposite to explore gender equality in the gambling industry.
What quickly emerges from even a cursory survey is that women—led most notably by iGaming giant bet365’s Denise Coates and Omnichannel Entain’s Jette Nygaard-Andersen, for example—are, increasingly, achieving parity with men at top executive levels.
But, surprisingly, it’s at entry and lower management strata where the disparity between men and women–for so long narrowing–has once again been widening.
That’s the unwelcome conclusion of the 2021/22 edition of the All-In Diversity Project’s annual All-Index report, which was recently published.
According to the report, binary gender representation across workplaces in the gambling industry has shifted from close to 50-50, to 56 per cent male and 43 per cent female — the remaining one per cent being people who identify as non-binary.
This year’s report saw participation from 40 organisations across 16 jurisdictions, covering 140,000 employees.
Over 40 per cent of respondents who took part were large companies with more than 250 workers. Operators made up 31 per cent of participants, while 29 per cent were suppliers.
While the gender gap has widened, more positively, the report also found that the number of women executive board members has risen by almost 10 per cent, year-on-year, to 29 per cent.
The Great Resignation
Nevertheless—discouragingly–women, overall, were leaving their jobs faster than men, in what was termed “The Great Resignation” — a post-Covid19 phenomenon which reveals that one-in-three women have seriously considered downshifting or exiting the workplace altogether.
And the All-In Diversity Project Report warned:
“The logical impact of this over time will be a lack of role models and mentors, and a reduced pool of talent for senior executive and board roles.”
At the very highest managing director and chief executive level, women continued to make slender gains.
Compared to 2019, top-flight female representation was up by just over three per cent. But women still only held around one-fifth of these leading positions.
Looking to future recruitment, the report noted that for the so-called Generation Z, the demographic born between 1997 and 2012, flexibility (working from home), career progression and work-life balance are their three top employment expectations.
“To be able to attract the very best new talent, organisations must ensure that their values, ethics and workplace practices align with those of Gen Z,” the report stressed.
Girls Can’t Catch
Christina Thakor-Rankin, Board Advisory Co-founder of the All-In Diversity Project, and currently a principal consultant at 1710 Gaming, told iGamingFuture:
“If women are not coming through the bottom, how can you get them to the top?
“This is the first time since we started the index in 2018 that we have not had a 50-50 gender balance. The shift is predominantly at entry level and is linked to the younger demographic.
“To be honest, we don’t fully understand why.
“One theory is that the balance in the gaming industry is shifting from casino, historically the leading product, where women have traditionally enjoyed parity, to sports betting, which is still much more male-focussed.”
And yet, it could be argued that with so many female sports now enjoying mainstream cross-gender popularity, most notably the recent triumph of women’s international football, this ancient prejudice that “girls can’t catch” is set to take a tumble.
Another driver for the decline in gender equity, posited by Christina, is the theory that post-Pandemic: “More women than men have taken a step back to re-evaluate.
“As traditional carers, I would say that probably more women than man have pivoted during, and since, the (Covid19) lockdowns,” she suggested.
We’ve Come a Long Way Baby
Elsewhere, on the wider political front, it can be convincingly argued that women—as leaders, and leadership role models—have come a long way since Mrs Sirimavo Bandaranaike (pronounced Bandra-Nike-A) became the world’s first female prime minister (of Sri Lanka, then named Ceylon) in 1960.
She was followed, mostly notably, by Mrs Gandhi in India in 1966, Golda Meir of Israel in 1969 and, of course, by the UK’s indefatigable Margaret Thatcher in 1979.
Like rulers of any sex, these female leaders were often “made” or “undone” by victory or failure in hard, physical conflict or warfare.
Yet what sets them apart from their male contemporaries–and this applies equally to current women Prime Ministers Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand, Sanna Marin of Finland and no doubt Britain’s new PM Liz Truss–are the double standards to which they were, and are, held.
Why, one asks, is a woman politician demonised for having an innocent disco dance; while a male leader–who shall here remain unnamed–be celebrated as a “Good Ol’ Boy” for a string of drink-driving and cocaine offences, albeit committed before he embarked on a political career.
This bleeds into our specific story and perhaps, in great part, explains why young women today contemplating joining the betting business are no longer prepared, in the words of one interviewee, “to put up with the bullshit”.
“Traditionally, the gambling industry is a hard-drinking all-male fraternity. Many women who entered the business thought that the only way to survive, to get on and prosper, was to adopt a masculine ‘Ladette’ persona,” said our highly-placed source, who asked for anonymity.
“But during the lock-down many young women had all the time in the world to take a serious re-assessment of their professional priorities, and quite frankly they’re just not willing to make these compromises any longer.”
Shifting Workplace Priorities
Maria Naveira Sund, Senior Vice-president of Engineering at Kambi, the Swedish sports betting platform provider, believes, unequivocally, that workplace priorities have shifted post-pandemic.
“As a leader you need to understand how the drivers for employees may have changed, and how to maintain [our] company culture in a hybrid setup — something of which we are very proud here at Kambi,” she said.
“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.
“[Although] there’s certainly still some distance to travel, 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 online Golden Hearts Games, contributed:
“Like most areas in need of change, improvements ebb and flow.
“There’s still unconscious bias. I still hear of women being passed over for jobs that should have been a slam dunk.”
And Sarah Blackburn, Founder and Director of iGaming marketing and PR agency GameOn Marketing, perhaps articulated a weariness shared by many when she decried:
“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.
“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.”
It’s a challenge and an opportunity that’s been met by Emma Blaylock, CEO of software developers and consultants Pretty Technical.
“At least 50 per cent of our management team are female,” she said, “not because of any quota but because they are the best people for the job.”
When this metric is met, across the spread of the gambling industry, we will all know that true equality—at last—has arrived.