ICE London could not have been a more exciting setting for these ground-breaking discussions. Whilst the most immersive gaming and gambling event of all time rumbled beneath us at the Excel Centre, leaders in the industry spoke about opening doors, the state of women in the workplace and how a diverse workforce reinvigorates your team.
Christina Thakor-Rankin, the co-founder of All-In, opened with a poignant speech on how much further we ought to be in terms of diversity and inclusion in the workforce. Progressive movements including the Civil Rights Movement are now more than 50 years behind us, and yet there is still a considerable lack of representation of Black and ethnic minority groups, women, LGBTQ+ and disabled individuals in senior organisational positions (and often throughout organisations as a whole).
Sadly, there is such a lack of inclusion and support for minority groups in some industries that unhealthy competition between members of those groups can arise. Christina highlighted a shocking statistic: That 68% of bullying done by female workers is towards fellow women.
This led to an important point on the need to be champions for our fellow workers; to celebrate their successes and open doors for those who have had the way barred to them due to their gender, skin colour and/or sexual orientation.
After such a moving start to the day, we were lucky to hear from two ground-breaking leaders in the gambling and gaming industry.
Ann-Dawn Young Sang, President and CEO of Supreme Ventures, gave us an inspirational talk on affecting powerful change in your career path. She spoke passionately about knowing your industry, mastering toughness and the importance of not allowing your job title to define your success. At the same time, Ann-Dawn shrewdly emphasised that personal qualities that can reflect your minority status, such as being “quiet” as a woman among men, can have their own unique power in a room of extraverts.
Next, we heard from Katie Lever, Chief Legal Counsel from Drew Las Vegas, who gave us some hard facts about the status of women in the workplace. Crucially, whilst there are now more women than ever occupying the c-suite level of organisations, there are obvious “broken rungs” at the middle tier. This represents the prevalent issue of organisations not retaining female staff or providing opportunities at every level.
The talks by these two influential figures certainly set the scene for the day in terms of the weight of the issues discussed. We were subsequently privileged to a panel discussion moderated by Kelly Kehn; co-founder of All-In. The panel included Ruth Purcell (Client Partner, Facebook), Simon O’Halloran (Group HR Director, GVC Group) and Wendy Montgomery (Senior Vice President of Global Brand, Marketing and Communications, IGT). These experts circulated some of the points raised by Christina, Ann-Dawn and Katie, with the addition of some refreshing practical pointers on making diversity and inclusion a positive reality in the workforce.
An important point raised by Katie in her speech earlier in the day surrounded the necessity of setting tangible goals in order to facilitate diversity. The panel echoed the sentiment that an inclusive workforce is not possible without policies, targets, quotas, and systematic evaluation of those requirements.
One crucial area in which such targets need to be seen is recruitment, where programmes are ideally set up to prevent bias.
The connotations of the term “bias” are complex, but the panel did touch on the relevance of unconscious bias as a driver of systemic issues with discrimination and exclusion in organisations.
Whilst unconscious bias training was recommended as a mandatory training requirement for staff by those on the panel, there were additional concerns that some training can deepen biases if not facilitated with delicate understanding of the staff group involved.
On that point, Ruth emphasised that research, including global people surveys is essential to such a large staff body as Facebook, in order to pick out areas where there are opportunities to promote and celebrate diversity.
Research can create a powerful platform for senior leadership buy-in, which is why it can be more difficult to raise diversity and inclusion initiatives in smaller companies where research is not so prevalent. Simon emphasised that his experience as a HR director is that challenging the mindset of senior leadership is essential in these cases, first and foremost by bringing recommendations back to business.
This might involve taking the lead from the pioneering companies in the industry that have implemented progressive policies with great success (Sky Bet were cited as a leading example in this area). In particular, it is useful to remind senior leaders that cognitive diversity within teams has massive advantages for 21st Century success. A simple example made by Ruth was that having different skin tones within a development team had resulted in a more inclusive idea of contrast and camera options for consumers using games involving these features.
Over the course of the panel discussion, the individuals launched into major praise of the multi-layered benefits of a diverse workforce. This was especially refreshing as it takes away from leaders “waving a big stick” around diversity quotas and moves towards a more progressive view of how we can all optimise and fulfil our workforce by having an exciting, inclusive organisational culture.
The bottom line is, that if people are allowed to be themselves and fully embody and celebrate their gender, culture, race or sexual orientation at work, they will be healthier, more comfortable, and more engaged with their teams and projects.
The gambling and gaming industry still have plenty to learn with regards to diversity and inclusion, but events like this show just how passionate so many individuals are in furthering this cause for having diverse businesses that do not exclude the range of talent that there is to be had.
It’s understandable to not know where to start in terms of implementing progressive policies and practices in your business. Whether you are part of the gambling and gaming industry or not, at Seventh Wave Corporate Training we are experts in providing support and training for a range of organisation types looking to advance their diversity and inclusion practices. Take the first step towards becoming an inclusive, 21st Century business by getting in touch with us today about our key training offers for the gambling industry, including our Unconscious Bias course.
Olivia is Seventh Wave's Head of Operations, and believes in the indispensability of mental health awareness in the workplace, having spent time supporting individuals in thriving in both their private and professional lives.