AiDP: Gambling requires greater inclusivity to match new generation of workforce challenges

This summer’s publishing of the long-awaited ‘All-Index 2020/2021 Report’ by diversity, inclusion and equality non-profit All-in Diversity Project (AiDP) has provided a candid reflection on global gambling’s workforce make-up.  

Whilst the 2020/2021 Index showcased improvements in female leadership representation, gambling firms were reported to lag in developing inclusivity practices.

Following up on research insights, AiDP founding partners Kelly Kehn and Christina Thakor-Rankin provided SBC with a deep dive on how all gambling firms must accept a decade of generational change that will see all standard HR  and talent development practices disrupted. 


SBC: A year on from lockdown, how has the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic impacted global businesses’ diversity, equality and inclusion (DEI) directives?

Kelly Kehn: As we mentioned in the Index this year, the betting and gaming industry is a reflection of society at large. Businesses around the world had to shift to working remotely when the pandemic hit. As we emerge into a post pandemic world, businesses focused on their people must address how we move forward. That means making decisions on remote working, staying fully remote, moving to a hybrid model or going back to an office based on supporting their entire workforce.

Flexibility in work for everyone has also become key. Businesses must address that we no longer work in a 9-5 world, and 2 years at home has changed the way we live our day to day. Listening to employees and creating an environment that supports productivity and also balance has become a key focus.

Perhaps not just related to the pandemic, but other outside factors as well, we’ve seen a real shift from defining DEI policy to implementing practice that is action focused. For example, Those offering an anti-bullying or grievance policy have dropped from 91% and 95% (2019) to 87% and 75%. Similarly, those offering a policy on mental health and well-being has dropped from 60% (2019) to 40%, and those with a D&I policy from 80% (2019) to 56%. However, training on dealing with discrimination and bullying is up Y/Y from 68% to 70% and dealing with stereotyping and exclusion is up 5% Y/Y.

Christina Thakor-Rankin: That’s an interesting question. There have been some real positives, such as the increase in remote and flexible working allowing organizations to increase the size of the talent pool available to them. This however has also shone a spotlight on some of the inequalities within the workplace.

Not everyone’s domestic circumstances support remote working, whilst for others being away from the ‘office’ has led to a sense of isolation and reduced a sense of team. Organizations need to be aware of both the pros and cons and ensure they address both.

The other impact of COVID was that it forced many people to change their approach to work – suddenly instead of life having to fit around work, work now had to fit around life under lockdown. For many this was a ‘Eureka’ moment, as a result of which many took the opportunity to re-evaluate life and career choices and make changes. This became the Great Resignation and saw more women than men leave their jobs. This of course is an issue for an industry with a focus on DEI.

The COVID impact study we did in partnership with Meta (ex Facebook) also gave us the first insight into how Generation Z’s attitudes to life and the workplace differ from others – managers and leaders need to understand and address this if they want to be able to attract the right talent in the future.

Kelly Kehn – AiDP

SBC: What has been the most challenging element of undertaking research for AiDP’s 2022 All-index? 

KK: I’d say the biggest challenge for us each year is to stay ahead of global trends and ask relevant questions to the organizations in order to accurately measure DEI. This topic isn’t something society will ever be done with – we are constantly evolving as a population and our needs change with that evolution. Gender was at the forefront when we started this project. Now that more women have moved into senior roles, we must now address things like shared parenting and the menopause in order to retain this top talent. Outside of gender, race has become a major topic to address. Unconscious bias was a buzz word and a key policy when we started, now companies are focusing efforts on gender pay, shared parental leave and how to address discriminatory behaviour in the workplace.

CTR: The biggest challenge is collecting the right data and then being able to use it to accurately map what DEI means to this industry. For the first time ever non-binary hit a measurable number – how does this impact organizations using  binary measures for gender quotas e.g. 30% women.

Diversity is not just about gender – it covers a wide range of characteristics. Often what they measure and why is based upon an organization’s interpretation of DEI. Anecdotally, many organizations in Europe only measure gender because for them DEI is about women and perhaps LGBTQ+. In the US however we are starting to see organizations mapping multiple characteristics including ethnicity as well as gender and LGBTQ.  

SBC: Your index registered an improvement in women represented within higher management and governance positions. What has driven these positive changes?  

KK: I’d like to say that All-in Diversity Project has had a major impact on this statistic. We’ve been talking about the commercial benefits of having a diverse board since 2017. From our work on the 10 Most Influential Women to our International Women’s Day campaigns (#breakthebias) to our bespoke work with leading companies in the space, it’s nice to see our message has been heard.

That said, it’s not down to just us. We have been part of the conversation but it’s important to look at what’s happening across the world as well.

  1. The rise of Gen Z: Not only is Gen Z the largest generational group the planet has ever seen, it is also the most ethnically and culturally diverse generation ever – something which is reflected in the core traits and attributes associated with this group. Early indications suggest that their life decisions (as both consumers and employees) will be driven by how closely an organization’s values, policies and practices align with theirs. For a generation that does not accept stereotypes and labels, but instead believes in celebrating difference and individuality, diversity, equity and inclusion is an expectation not an aspiration. They can instantly spot companies who genuinely promote diversity vs. those who give it lip service.
  2. New role models: I think it’s fair to say that, as an industry, we’ve bought into the case for diversity at senior management. The two biggest companies, Bet365 and Entain, both have women CEOs leading their business – not to mention FanDuel, Pinnacle Sports, Barstool Sports  and others like IGG, WKND,  and GeoComply (just to mention a few). As a woman, I’m so happy to see more and more female role models out there challenging the way to lead and inspiring a new generation of our workforce.

    Not only that, public companies around the world are being challenged to improve diversity at the non-exec level. Whilst there has been a drop in the number of women entering the industry in the period, the number of women at the top in Board positions has continued to rise. If the All-Index® is a benchmark for the industry in the case of non-executive roles we have already surpassed this milestone, with females now occupying 32% of these positions. This is in keeping with the US average of 30% of all non-execs on the S&P being female, but falls significantly short of the UK average where women now occupy 51% of non-exec board roles. Overall, I’d say we’ve bought the business case, it’s now a matter of implementing the right strategy to hire and retain women leaders ongoing.

  3. A focus on responsible play and taking care of our total customer base – As companies are being tasked with focusing on responsible play across the world, they are realizing that having an intimate knowledge of their customers is key. This means, if the business wants to protect its customers, it needs to have perspectives from all groups represented internally across its workforce. A key group of focus is women gamblers. At a conservative estimate, 30% of gamblers in the US are women, higher estimates go up to almost 45%. With all eyes on this growing demographic, the companies that will be around for the future need to protect the sustainability of this customer base.
SBC News AiDP: Gambling requires greater inclusivity to match new generation of workforce challenges
Christina Thakor-Rankin – AiDP

SBC: Yet AiDP highlighted a ‘significant exposure’ in entry-level jobs for women – what should be done to fix this visible issue?

KK: This was the first year we saw a noticeable dip in the number of women overall. This is likely due to factors such as the Great Resignation which has affected more women than men globally, but also likely due to the rise of sports betting in the US. As we’ve seen in other markets as they are starting up, the need for talent (any talent) outweighs the focus on DEI. I think the key message here is that companies can not take their eye off the ball. Measurement truly matters. If you have a strategic goal to be more diverse and inclusive, that should factor into all of your hiring across the world.

CTR: Before we can look at the fix we need to understand the problem. Why are fewer women joining the industry? The COVID study we did with Meta shows that for Generation Z values and attitudes are key to how they go about choosing a sector or employer. DEI and CSR matter to them. Unfortunately, to anyone looking at this industry from the outside it is still too male and pale. Sure one or two conference/event organizers have a few more women or non-white faces at their events but to many this feels like lip-service or accidental e.g. they wanted someone from a big brand and that person just happened to break the norm of what an executive usually looks like.

People are now wise to whether an organization is being genuine or not – and a lack of authenticity is likely to be seen as being worse than not trying at all in the first place.

If all women (of all ages) see is an industry populated by a bunch of people who they can’t really relate to (mainly men or someone else’s definition of what a female role model looks like) why would they want to get involved?

We need to be much, much, smarter at this. It is fixable, but not unless we change the way we think about these things.
SBC: As cited by your report, Gambling businesses lag behind wider industries in capturing talent pool data – how can this dynamic be improved?  

KK: Again, Measurement truly matters. Data isn’t just for reporting purposes but for setting relevant policies, having equitable pay and succession plans and ensuring you have a workforce that reflects the customer base. As highlighted in our report, ethnicity seems to be a big area for improvement. Most industries can speak to their ethnic (non-white) makeup and measure their ethnicity pay gap. To date, we as a global industry have not addressed this topic. I think the first step is to talk about the areas we can improve upon such as ethnicity and the benefits of hiring from all underrepresented demographic groups. 13% of the UK population is not white and 42% of the US is not white – both countries are well represented on our Index. In the UK, 45% of the total adult population gambles and 49% of the adult population in the US will visit a casino this year. We don’t have the data but I’d be very surprised if we even came close to those percentages in terms of our workforce.

CTR: We are not lagging behind on everything – in some ways we are actually better than some other industries e.g. how many other industries have hit above 30% for females in non-exec roles – not that many. That is huge progress and something we should be proud of. There are however areas we do need to be better.

We need to really think about why we struggle in some areas but not others. Some of this is literally down to how people view gambling. It really isn’t for everyone. The second is an organization’s desire to be truly inclusive by ensuring DEI is a part of its DNA and present in everything it does. The third is regulation and how it impacts on the continued growth of the industry. Greater DEI means greater hiring opportunities and this is only possible where the industry is growing – just look at IGT, L & W and PNG compared to their peers.

SBC: Of concern, your report flagged a 30% decline in support for mental health assistance… Does leadership require an urgent rethink its this vital matter?  

KK: I don’t think the organizations that have participated in the past have dropped their mental health initiatives. I think the data suggests that we have many more participants coming on board who are at an earlier stage in their lifecycle.

We had several businesses who were just at the start of their policy setting at submission so may not have added this to the agenda as of yet.

So, at the moment, while too soon to say for sure, I’d say this is likely not a cause for concern. Post-pandemic has seen a shift towards empathetic leadership and a focus on individual well-being.

CTR: Whilst there was a decline in mental-health assistance there was an increased focus on general well-being and a more proactive approach to tackling those things that might have an impact on a person’s mental-health e.g. greater awareness around discrimination and how to report bullying and harrassment. There seems to have been a shift towards prevention rather than waiting until there is a problem that impacts mental health.

SBC: What workplace directives/practices would you recommend to gambling businesses to adopt during ruptured times?

KK: It’s obvious (and a little self-serving) but I truly believe in this. Keep ongoing measurement and benchmarking of your DEI data a priority. As I mentioned, we’ll never get to ‘perfect’. Things are always changing. As long as a business is committed to transparency and holding up the mirror to address areas for improvement, we’ll stay on the right track towards inclusion. With inclusion comes great success across the board.

I also think listening to your employees regularly – whatever that looks like – and taking their feedback onboard is incredibly important. Being heard is what fosters a sense of belonging. I say this all the time but we have enough trouble as an industry recruiting people no matter who they are. Working hard to retain and develop them should be a no-brainer.

CTR: If you genuinely don’t believe in DEI don’t bother – you’re just wasting everyone’s time including your own as any gains will be short-lived before people see it for what it is.

If you do believe in it then it’s really not that hard. Have policies and practices that support transparency, objectivity, and fairness in the hiring process. Give employees the chance to realize their potential and show you what they can do. Have ways to show how much you value your people and their input. Ensure respect is embedded within your workplace culture. Have a DEI policy. It’s not  complicated – it’s just ensuring everyone treats everyone else the way they would want to be treated themselves – and where that policy is breached – do something.

SBC: How do you see the All-index developing in the coming years, especially amid a period of economic uncertainty affecting business and employment?  

KK: Do you know how much employee turnover costs? Besides the loss of morale and productivity, it actually costs a great deal of money (some estimates as high as 6-9 months of annual salary) to recruit someone else, onboard them and train them. I would say that it is even MORE important in times of economic uncertainty to do everything you can to retain employees.

The All-Index is a strategic tool we offer the industry in order to make DEI a business priority within their organization. The Index is free for any business of any size and will remain as such for the foreseeable future no matter what the economic climate is thanks to our Founding Members.

So, to answer your question, I’ll say this Making diversity, equality and inclusion a strategic priority doesn’t change business costs. In fact, it lowers costs. I hope that the Index continues to grow in participation year over year as we’ve seen over the last 3 years regardless of economic climate. It will develop to reflect the needs of the industry and the societal changes we see across the globe. It will also develop to ensure the data is more available and useful to participants.

CTR: In some ways it will be business as usual. The gambling sector like many others is shaped by the world around it – this includes economic, regulatory challenges and changes in society and public opinion. For example the majority of organizations now offer a parental leave policy, not maternity leave. More organizations are now tracking different characteristics within their employee base – not just gender.

We live in an ever changing, constantly evolving world. The All-Index is a barometer and reflection on how world events impact our industry. It’s intended as a baseline and benchmark that allows us to identify and map trends, spikes and dips (both positive and negative) early enough that we can do something about it. We hope it will continue to be so.



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