Can diversity in eGaming become a safe bet?
Self-help is possibly the best way for women to gain deserved recognition in the largely male-dominated eGaming industry, according to a group of key executives, reports Ray Spencer
Women mentoring each other, targeted female recruitment, gaming advertising, and collective lobbying of government for improved childcare benefits and facilities were all identified by the sector’s eight women and one man taking part in the KPMG (Gibraltar) 3rd annual ‘Roundtable’ event organised in conjunction with Gibraltar International Magazine.
A general lack of confidence by women and their self-doubt on personal ability were quickly identified as key obstacles to having a more gender balanced workforce. As Cristina Turbatu, technical lead at Playtech, noted: “If someone advertises a job, with most women, if they don’t tick 80% of the [requirement] boxes, they don’t apply. I see a lot of male applicants with a similar level of qualification, who think they still will go for the job.”
Turbatu, who is also managing director of not-for-profit Girls in Tech Gibraltar, revealed: “In some cultures girls are encouraged to go into maths and technology, but even from an early age in Gibraltar, US and the UK, they are distanced from maths and sciences and it is regarded as boys stuff; girls don’t have the option to study applied maths and they grow up with the idea that it’s not for them.”
KPMG research addressed the myth that women were less confident and explained that women simply tend to present themselves differently than men in interviews. Women typically were “brutally honest and forensically self-analytical about their abilities”, whereas men were more likely to ‘self-promote’, which can lead to “incorrect assumptions that men are better”, Micky Swindale, KPMG’s director responsible for technology, reported.
Dawn Adams, transformational director at William Hill, declared: “I used to work for a company (in a different sector) which had a mentoring programme and it was evident that junior staff felt the need to ask permission to go for a promotion.”
She recalled not being able to do technical drawing at school and having “to negotiate my way into doing advanced maths. Businesses can change that experience by working with children in schools and having development managers”.
When working for newspapers in the 1980’s it was a male dominated environment, but “when they started to bring technology to the fore you could really feel the diversity and flexibility in the roles that technology brought,” Adams said.
Picking up that point, Neil Banbury, UK general manager for Kindred, noted: “The reality is that the sector we are in – entertainment, technology – is offering more opportunity to work in an exciting field with more transactions per second than in almost any other sector of industry. This opportunity should be open to anyone, even though gambling has an image of being very male dominated.”
Missing a trick
Jon Tricker, KPMG Gibraltar’s managing director, interjected: “Fundamentally a woman’s brain is different to a man’s and operates in different ways when talking about the same thing.” He came from a background of working with six male partners, and Swindale was the only KPMG female partner in a group of seven! “We are missing a trick in not having more of the different perspectives women can bring to help grow the business,” he concluded.
A poll of some 300 delegates at the April 2017 KPMG Gibraltar eGaming summit revealed that threequarters had 10% or fewer women on the executive team of the gaming company they worked for, or were most closely associated with; “that was quite a wake-up call,” Swindale confessed.
She noted: “We are talking about the commercial benefit of having women in the team and we are focused on the idea about understanding what it might take to encourage more female involvement in businesses. Several research studies have shown that women are not getting the same opportunities or treatment.”
Agreeing, Nyreen Llamas, chief strategy officer for Addison Global, said: “Women always bring a different perspective and it is of value; we don’t always get it right. Different men bring different perspectives and different women bring different perspectives. The more diversity that you can have in the pool, the more you are going to get out – it is exponential.”
Balancing work & home
Donna Del Greco, Betvictor’s head of legal / general counsel, said women should consider what the organisation’s attitude towards female career progression and work/home life balance, and advised: “If either cannot be offered, then the woman needs to be able to recognise this and decide whether she wants to remain in the organisation for the long term and petition for change.”
Swindale suggested: “It’s about achieving a balance. We need to learn that confidence is self-awareness; confidence is an innate belief, it isn’t about being good at self-promotion.”
Elicia Bravo, chief strategy officer at Lottoland, told how she had worked for a City of London firm which, “from their
perspective, really were focused on trying to promote women, but whether it is being done in the right way is up for debate. Some of my colleagues definitely experienced a bias towards women!
“Women who are assertive are often perceived as aggressive – also if they appear too much like a man, then they lose their edge,” warned Bravo, whose firm has two thirds of its 300 employees in Gibraltar. Women bring something very different to the table, which has an intrinsic value, however it is difficult to achieve a perfect balance when it comes to diversity.”
Nevertheless, Janet Ainsworth, Ladbrokes Coral head of talent & development, felt: “We have to help women challenge themselves. I hear women say ‘I’ve got a child so I can’t do that’, or ‘I’m not as confident as men in this situation’, or ‘I’ve not got the right qualifications’, and feel that it would be great if we could support them to be more confident and believe these are not always blockers to being a senior leader”.
Her colleague, human relations director, Katie Hirst, said that following the Ladbrokes merger with and Gala/Coral, (which had been “male dominated”) she was seeking ways to attract female candidates, and asked: “Where do we advertise roles, where do we go to get them interested in our environment . We know there is an opportunity for women to progress.” Whilst the business was changing internally, “everything external is reinforcing the male stereotype, so how do we express what we really are, because of the perception of gambling?”
Ainsworth maintained: “We need to be challenging on what industry we are really in – how we describe it; we are in the entertainment industry and this may be more attractive; we need to think differently about how we describe it to potential employees and customers alike.”
There was a “lot of the noise in the UK about the gambling industry in society and it’s not helping when the perception is very negative”, Llamas formerly a partner in a local law firm, asserted. Ainsworth declared: “We should look at how the finance sector has improved its image and re-established trust again [following the 2008 crisis]”.
Swindale observed that financial services firms had long attempted to appeal to women through their advertising, but had not practiced what they preached [on greater inclusion of women] within their organisations “and the public is seeing through that approach.” She added: “The approach to bingo advertising has noticeably changed from omnipresent pink five years ago to the likes of tombola advertising showing men and women in a bar, having parties, generally enjoying themselves, and this has had a positive impact on participation by men.”
Women make up a good proportion of the on-line gaming market, yet “most gambling advertising doesn’t appear to try to appeal to women as customers” and it perhaps needed to be presented as “less macho and aggressive”, Swindale submitted.
Hirst judged: “This is not a sector that has been traditionally attractive to women and not enough women in the business are singing about how good it is, singing the diversity hymn sheet to attract other women”, conceding her HR team was all-female!
“Without sounding too negative, I’m not sure whether the customer base in the demographics of the products is ever truly going to change from basically appealing to males”, Hirst declared, while suggesting that before giving sports betting a greater feminine appeal there was need for research “to see whether women genuinely are interested in sports betting”.
If advertising was doing well, why would a firm change it and possibly antagonise its predominately male customer base, Del Greco questioned: “We are very much a male [appeal] company, so would we alienate a large number of customers? When females are put into the mix, the tendency is to make [advertising] sexy.”
This led Ainsworth to wonder: “Is there a correlation then between demographics of the customer and those of an organisation, where the customer is primarily male?”
Banbury observed: “The industry’s advertising has been very focused towards men – lads, drinking and going out – but the demographic is all types. We’ve tried female targeted sports betting, but the industry could also broaden its targeting from stereotypes, even within the male audience.”
Llamas determined that future diversity would bring balance “and this industry hasn’t been particularly good at it, but it is at a crossroads. Sometimes women are not very good at mentoring and there is an element of female jealousy. I’m not suggesting for a minute it’s going to be easy, but if we have female [as well as male] role models it will be more helpful.”
More help needed
Recording that working mothers frequently experienced problems dealing with school timetables, Hirst stated: “Childcare is very expensive and some flexibility in benefits would be beneficial. We [in Gibraltar] have not got a voucher scheme as in the UK; everything comes out of salary. There ought to be communication with the government about what more can be done – looking at options around use of benefits – to give women more opportunity from working.
Llamas maintained: “It is also up to this industry to do something about it. It’s all very good saying that the government should do it, but I think the industry should lobby and try to do something itself. When one of the first gaming companies arrived here, there weren’t any nurseries, so they set one up. It was very successful and developed from providing a facility for employees’ families to include others more generally.”
The industry had not been good at collective efforts, although its response to the UK Point of Consumption Tax had been an example of working together. “Even in a competitive industry like ours, childcare provision could be achieved by doing things together,” Llamas determined.
Ladbrokes Coral research into local benefits packages for mothers, found “there’s not a huge amount out there that goes above and beyond”, Hirst related. “Together we should see what can be done to help women and agree on whom we can go to for help, to influence change,” she believed.
Sarah Wood, head of compliance at Betvictor, pointed out: “As you can see from the people around this table, there is genuine progress in the area especially in management and executive roles.”