International Women’s Day RoundTable: The Importance of Female Leadership

iGaming has traditionally been a male-dominated industry, but more recently there’s been a growing shift in dynamics. While women are estimated to account for nearly half of all gamers, they only make up 28 percent of the iGaming workforce. And the numbers are even lower when it comes to leadership positions – a missed opportunity if ever there was one, writes Lauren Harrison.

In honour of International Women’s Day, we’re celebrating female leaders who break the mould; the women role models who are championing representation in a male-dominated industry, and who are using their diversity, skills and knowledge to unlock previously under-served gaming markets.

Joining us for this frank discussion on gender equality in iGaming are:
Mia Nyland-Evers, Co-CEO at Omnigame (MNE)
Marina Ostrovtsova, CEO at BGaming (MO)
Lara Falzon, CEO at AvatarUX (LF)

As a female CEO, do you feel responsible for serving as a mentor/role model for other women in the iGaming industry? If so, how do you fulfil this role?

MNE: “I feel a general responsibility as a Co-CEO in a company with more than 60 employees to be a leader and create a diverse, welcoming environment.

“From the perspective of being a woman in iGaming, the fact that I have this role already proves it is possible in a male-dominated industry. We are also in a sector where the focus is increasingly on how to attract female players and why it is perceived as difficult.

“The problem with this, and the solution, is pretty clear for me: If you want to create a product that caters to a broader audience, you need to have the right cards in your hand, and a diverse business is the simple answer.

“I don’t only see it as my responsibility for all the aspiring women out there who have the potential to become leaders in the iGaming industry. I see it as a major business opportunity to unlock this knowledge about the players that is currently under-represented and poorly acknowledged.”

MO: “I don’t think there is a clear answer for this one. I would say both yes and no. As a female CEO, I think I do serve as a role model to some extent. I might be looked up to by working women in general, not just those in the iGaming industry, as someone in a leadership position, but I don’t feel the weight of responsibility to fulfil a certain role.

“It can be inspiring to see accomplished women who have achieved notable success in their respective fields, and I hope this might drive others to believe they can do it too. Overall, I am glad I have helped increase the representation of female CEOs in the industry.”

LF: “Absolutely. With great power comes great responsibility, as they say, and this is extremely true. Being at the helm of an organisation means having responsibilities not only towards the business itself but also towards different stakeholders, whether within or outside the organisation.

“Personally, I do feel responsible for serving as a role model and mentor irrespective of gender, but I am a big fan of giving opportunities to women. As both a mother and a business leader, I wish to show younger females that a successful career doesn’t come at the expense of life commitments.”

Looking ahead, what changes or advancements do you hope to see in terms of gender equality and representation in the industry?

MNE: “There is a movement happening already, which you can see with the number of ‘Women in Gaming’ conferences and awards. I hope to see even more events that focus on the matter because it’s crucial to push this agenda, and this should not only be done by including more women but also including ambassadors with diverse backgrounds to represent the industry.”

MO: “I hope women can enjoy and feel comfortable being women in the industry without being afraid of certain biases or preconceived ideas. At BGaming, all of our C-level executives are women, and they have achieved great things for the company. Looking ahead to the future, I hope to hear more female voices in the industry while seeing them exercise more influence over the future of iGaming.”

LF: “I strongly believe that the industry has come a long way compared to when I first started. Today, equal employment opportunities are not just a statement on paper, but a reality, and we see it with the incredible array of talented female individuals in the sector. I believe that the industry is already at a point where it tries as hard as it can to promote smart and hard-working individuals, irrespective of gender.”

Can you share a particular challenge or obstacle you’ve faced on your journey as a woman in the industry and how you overcame it?

MNE: “More or less, all investors in the iGaming industry are men. Omnigame is a venture case, so part of my job is to talk to investors and potential partners.

“Statistics unfortunately show that, in general, venture companies that are male-led have a higher chance of raising capital than companies that are women-led. This is a fact I simply can’t accept. I know funding is tough, but the fact that my gender could possibly play a significant part in the success of raising funds, despite my qualifications, a fantastic company, and unique products, is very illogical to me.

“I am a positive person and have met a lot of great people in my time in the industry. I don’t have a specific case where my gender had a negative effect on a partnership with Omnigame. Unfortunately, the statistics show that there most likely have been a few. However, I am incredibly happy that Omnigame has proven them wrong, as we have never had more requests for partnerships alongside our growth and profitability!”

MO: “While I cannot recall any major obstacles I have faced in my time working in the industry, I have come across some issues in regards to my style, and the way I look. I didn’t let them get in my way. Aside from this, most of the challenges I had were in my own head, either as self-limiting doubts about my abilities or unconscious biases about various things. This is why learning about yourself is important. When you figure out who you are and what you want, you can then work out how to achieve it.”

LF: “There have been a number of challenges over the course of my career path, as I’m sure is the case with everyone, but it is reflective of the fact that the path to success is never an easy one. Overcoming these challenges has been achieved with a combination of determination, persistence, and perseverance. There are obstacles in all aspects of life, but the key is in how we approach them.”

What advice do you have for aspiring female entrepreneurs looking to break into the iGaming industry and eventually reach leadership positions?

MNE: “Believe that your qualifications and views are what is needed and that there is a strength in standing out. Challenge that not everything has to be how it was and celebrate your victories, not alone but with everyone around you so that the business case behind a brilliant woman is a business case with a high lifetime value.”

MO: “Being a woman is fantastic. If at any point you forget that, here is my advice. Pin that phrase somewhere in your head so that it becomes your mindset. Learn everything about yourself, even what you do not like, and acknowledge this.”

LF: “Go for it! Ambition, knowledge and skills are not tied to gender, and we see so many fantastic examples of female entrepreneurs really succeeding in our space. There’s plenty of advice I would give, such as building skills to enhance your expertise, connecting with different professionals to share ideas and gain insights, and showcasing your work to demonstrate your passion and skills.

“Women should also promote diversity themselves and be an advocate for inclusion. It’s also important to stay resilient and never give up or stop learning, as there will be challenges along the way.

“There are countless opportunities to stand out in the iGaming industry, and I hope to see more females maximise their chances in the coming years.”

Editor’s Note:
Discussing success through gender framing is complicated, while simultaneously seeking to be evaluated solely on achievements and skills.

Still, gender has a considerable impact when working in an industry dominated by the opposite sex, and the ongoing efforts to right this imbalance mean that gendered achievements must be recognised and celebrated.

Above all, while there are now more women in iGaming than ever, a continued push for greater diversity is necessary because it provides new insights and enables access to previously untapped markets.

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