Q&A with All-In Diversity Co-Founders Christina Thakor-Rankin and Kelly Kehn

Diversity & Inclusion in iGaming: The Value in Celebrating the Differences

Our current social climate means that the campaign for increased diversity is gaining a lot of traction across the board. Encouraging all industries, including Gaming, to better demonstrate cultural representation within their ranks.

Besides the obvious moral justifications for this well-needed paradigm shift, there are also commercial benefits to be gained from an improved DEI strategy.

Christina Thakor-Rankin and Kelly Kehn, Co-Founders of the All-In Diversity Project, believe that in order for companies to really reap all the full rewards of Diversity they must extend it’s reach throughout the entire company culture and not limit it to the confines of HR departments.

Read below as we explore how this can be effectively achieved and what impact this will have on the future of our industry.

The topic of Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion has been an ongoing conversation in the industry. How can key iGaming stakeholders ensure that it’s not a topic purely ring-fenced within HR and is communicated as a core part of the entire business culture?

AID: “That’s easy – just make the conscious decision to make DEI a part of the overall business strategy in the same way as sustainability or social responsibility. We need to understand that whilst HR may facilitate and support the hiring process the ultimate decision as to which candidate has the best technical or operational fit for the role is taken by others. Unless these decision-makers understand how diversity can not only help broaden the overall talent, skills and experience available to them but that a team where everyone thinks and sees things slightly differently provides the perfect breeding ground for innovation they will continue with the safe option – which is hiring more of the same.

“We are seeing similar paradigm shifts when it comes to sustainability and responsibility. This is not one person’s or one department’s job. That is the surest way to fail. If we want a better industry, a sustainable company that truly takes care of our customers then we have to make these things everyone’s job. And we can’t do that unless everyone understands the mission, the culture… but also why embracing it makes them more successful.

“The other way is to just give examples of how competitors are stealing a march on them by doing what they’re not. Celebrating difference and reaping the benefits. Take a look at last year’s All-Index and the link between DEI and commercial success is clear for all to see.”

How can a better understanding of the relationship between culture addition and culture fit help iGaming companies to create the optimum business environment for their staff?

AID: “Culture fit is more of the same – hiring people who think, act and behave the same as those already there. It’s safe and comfortable but nothing really changes. In a sector like the gambling industry which is forever moving and pushing the boundaries staying the same is not good. New markets and new products means new customers with different expectations and different needs. This doesn’t mean getting rid of the old employees – it just means bringing in new ones who can help the business understand how the new needs to fit around and alongside what they already have.

“Imagine your business culture is jeans. You have a few styles and those are the core of your business. They are successful and appeal to your customers. Your competitor does the same. You keep topping up the stock and regular customers keep coming back. Your competitor however decides to add to the range of styles they have (new colours, styles, fit, customisation). They continue to serve their old customers but suddenly they now also start to attract new customers. They also attract some of your customers looking for a change. Both businesses cultures are still jeans, but by moving towards a position of culture add (it’s still jeans but jeans that look and feel different), your competitor has been able to build on what they started with – they still have their original customers, but by adding to what they had they have been able to attract new customers, persuade old customers to try something new and also steal yours.”

We’re now living in the dreaded era of cancel culture. What impact does this increased PR pressure have on iGaming brands and how can it be discouraged in the future?

CTR: “That depends on how you look at it. The first question is why is it ‘dreaded’ and why are companies fearful of it – surely calling out something that is inappropriate or wrong is something everyone should be doing? Is it OK for a poker ambassador to call a woman a ‘hoe’ or for a company party to have a black-faced singer surrounded by dancing monkeys as entertainment? Are we saying that this shouldn’t be called out in case it upsets the company? I don’t think we are. I think what we’re really saying is that companies are afraid of the unknown. They know the world is changing and that they need to change too – but they don’t know where, why or how. The best way to do avoid cancel culture is to acknowledge that you need to change and start changing. I don’t think anyone expects a company to change overnight or get everything right all the time, but the world can be much more forgiving if it knows you’re trying to change. ”

KK: “We can call it whatever we like but let’s not blame our own bad behaviour or decisions on social media. As Tina said, we should call out bad behaviour and social media gives us that platform to do so, but it shouldn’t end there. Just pointing fingers is toxic and doesn’t help us progress. All-in Diversity Project doesn’t exist just to call out bad behaviour. We give businesses (and the industry) tools to be better. As she states above, we are offering the where, why and how to move forward.”

Depending on a person’s intersectionality they may or may not feel best placed to advocate DEI. What can we do as an industry to encourage and demonstrate that everyone should be advocating DEI? Regardless of how they identify themselves.

CTR: “1. People. Behaviour breeds behaviour. If we have role models who represent intersectionality and are prepared to speak out and share their experiences others will follow. Think of other social movements such as #metoo and #timesup where once one or two people can open the door for others to also get involved. It’s hard to speak out when you are the only one – when you feel that the only way of being accepted is to not draw attention to yourself, to conform or fit in with the expectations of others – even if those expectations are based upon deeply insulting and offensive stereotypes. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had individuals from under-represented groups make a point of coming and saying that they had been sent by their company and felt incredibly self-conscious because they weren’t male or white, and seeing me didn’t just make them feel less isolated and alone, it actually made them more confident and reassured them they had as much right to be there as any-one else.

“2. Profit. We just need to show how diversity and inclusion adds anything between 10% to 50%+ to a company’s bottom line. This has been shown in research conducted by organizations such as Forbes, Harvard and McKinsey. And for those thinking difference can be dangerous -there are many companies where thinking differently meant success Apple, bet365, etc, and just as many where not being able to think differently meant failure, Nokia, etc.”

KK: “As one of our role models and supporters (Kim Barker Lee, VP D&I, IGT) has said in the past, the business case for DEI is now irrefutable. Businesses are literally investing billions of dollars to reap the benefits of a more inclusive workforce. We don’t need to shove the need ‘for advocacy’ down anyone’s throat, that’s when things get misinterpreted. We need to educate and demonstrate how new perspectives, ideas and beliefs benefit them. And that only happens, as Tina says, with behaviour change (people) and then a measure of the success (profit) when that change occurs.”

Editor’s Note:

After speaking with the Founders of All-In Diversity, it’s clear that the case for increased DEI is inarguable and going forward, gaming companies will find it increasingly difficult to remain competitive in the market without a strong DEI strategy in place.

The time to act is now and we look forward to seeing this trend transition into an industry benchmark going forward.