IWD Roundtable: Finding the right path on diversity

Hearing different perspectives on diversity and inclusion can help highlight the areas in which the betting and gaming industry can improve. 

Hosting a roundtable discussion, SBC spoke to women who are relatively new to the industry to find out about their career development, their experience of the sector’s work environments and the advice they’d give to other women looking to enter the sector. 

SBC: What attracted you to the online gambling industry in the first place? 

Skyler Cheng, Business Development Specialist at Champion Sports: When I graduated from Leeds University with my master’s degree in International Trade, I didn’t really know what industry I wanted to go into. What I did know is that I didn’t want to be stuck in an office doing something that was mundane. I wanted to work in an industry that was fast-paced and exciting and that fascinated me. 

I started to do some research into the different sectors where my skills would be a good fit and where I could also leverage my ability to speak both Mandarin and English, as well as my experience of studying in multicultural environments in China, the US and the UK. 

I soon realised that the online gambling industry would be a great match as it would allow me to combine my academic abilities and understanding of building international businesses with my ability to speak two languages while also working in a multicultural environment. Ultimately, it was an industry where I felt I could make a difference and that really excited me.

Elena Bickle, Campaign Coordinator at Betsson: Having previously worked in a dynamic, fast-paced and creative industry, and knowing that my personality fits that environment very well.

I was looking for a similar work environment that provides opportunity for growth, rewards hard work, recognises talent and offers a good work-life balance. The iGaming industry seemed like the perfect fit. 

Victoria Harnett, Product Manager for Incentive Games: I’ve always enjoyed the excitement of casinos – both land-based and online. Las Vegas is one of my favourite places to visit (I even got married there!) so working in the industry was always a given for me, it’s such an innovative area to work in and when you’re in the business of providing entertainment no day can ever be boring

Natasja Tkacova, Product Owner at Green Jade Games: Coming from an economic background, my personal skills and talents were never really pushed to the limit with the previous jobs and roles that I held. In other industries, companies give you a rule book to follow as soon as you step through the door on your first day and ask you to adhere to it religiously. This leaves little to no space for creativity and coming up with new ideas and processes. 

The gambling industry showed me that there can be space for creativity, and it offers many different areas that you can develop and grow into. Besides that, the industry’s culture of “work hard play hard” is something that I have not experienced in the other sectors that I have worked in. 

SBC: What has been your experience of the industry to date? 

SC: I have only been working in the industry for a year and, so far, it has been really fast-paced and full-on. I wouldn’t have it any other way as this has enabled me to learn a lot and to develop and progress very quickly. 

It is fair to say that the industry is still male dominated but things are changing. In the past, females didn’t really have equal opportunities but that goes beyond how the gambling industry approaches equality and diversity. It’s only in the past decade or so that females have had equal opportunities generally, especially when it comes to higher education and being able to gain the qualifications required to secure entry-level jobs in industries such as ours. 

This change for the better will take time to filter through, but already we are seeing greater diversity in the gambling industry and others. Of course, this is a long journey and significant change won’t happen overnight, but we are definitely moving in the right direction. 

EB: Making the decision to make a career change can be very daunting. When I first joined the industry, I was excited but also worried. My worries revolved around whether I had made the right choice to change my career. Within a few weeks, I had no doubt this was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. 

I must mention that I was very lucky to join a team that from the very first day, made me feel extremely welcome, were all so open to share their knowledge and provided me with opportunities to grow and develop on a personal and professional level.

VH: I’ve been lucky to have worked for amazing companies and been supported by several male and female mentors who have encouraged and supported me with my career aspirations. I started my career in the customer operations side of things working my way up before moving over to product around four years ago and I haven’t looked back since.

NT: It has been a roller coaster ride for sure and I have had plenty of fun along the way. At its heart, this industry is all about delivering entertaining experiences where customers can gamble on the outcome of different events. 

While it is important to ensure the fun factor is present in all of our games, it is just as important to ensure that we adhere to regulations and that we prioritise responsible gambling. With gambling, fun should be set to a responsible level and within the bounds of what is considered safe behaviour. Balancing this is a challenge that requires various skills that I would not have been able to use or develop in other industries. 

SBC: Could you share a particular highlight? 

SC: My biggest highlight so far was being promoted just six months after I joined Champion Sports. I joined as Executive Assistant but was then offered the role of Business Development Specialist. This was a big moment for me as when I started at the company I had no experience in the industry but I was really keen to learn and to absorb as much information as I could. So as well as booking hotels and organising travel for team members, I started to learn about the Champion Sports platform and product suite. 

I would watch product demonstrations and join development meetings, and by using my language skills to help translate from Mandarin to English and vice versa I was able to gain an understanding of client needs and how solutions met them. I have also gained a deep understanding of the company and its culture – our board is based in Manila but the vast majority of the team works from our headquarters on the Isle of Man. 

We are a diverse team with a lot of different cultures and ways of working. Again, my language skills and experience of being in multicultural environments has allowed me to be a sort of bridge between our board in Manila and the wider team working from the Isle of Man. 

I really do love my role and the challenges and opportunities it presents. 

EB: This might not be the answer one expects as it might not seem like a highlight at first. A few months after joining Betsson, a business decision was made by the company for the team I was a part of to be split, due to the fact that Betsson had decided to stop accepting Dutch customers on their international websites with the intention to in the future, operate under the new Dutch licencing regime. I was immediately given the opportunity to join our Central CRM team. 

At first, the change felt very sudden, and I was unsure on how it would all play out. Fast forward a few months, and now, I look back and I am grateful because through that experience, I have had the opportunity to expose myself to a different side of our commercial operations, met and worked with a new talented group of people and gained new skills and knowledge that I have no doubt will contribute towards my professional growth.

VH: There’s been so many it’s hard to choose! I love creating, so taking a product from a few sketches on a whiteboard to a living thing is always a big win for me. When you see a product advertised on a billboard or TV and know you were a part of the journey it’s always exciting. 

Currently, Incentive Games are working on some really exciting amazing products for bet365 and FanDuel which is really exciting to be a part of. I’ve always enjoyed developing people; watching someone you have mentored go on to achieve success in their career has been so rewarding. 

NT: The competition is high, and companies try to stand but often in ways that are the same as their rivals. If you’re lucky, you end up working for a company that tries to make a difference in a unique way that others have not tried before. For me, that is Green Jade Games. We try to make a difference and it’s very exciting and an absolute highlight in my career to not only be working in the gambling industry but to be working for Green Jade Games. 

SBC: Do you believe the industry is doing enough when it comes to diversity? 

SC: It is getting better for sure and roundtables such as this are great at driving awareness and helping move towards a better future. As an industry, there should be a desire to foster an inclusive environment for all and for talent not to be confined. Companies need to onboard the best talent regardless of gender, race, etc. I do think we are doing great things, but we need to be more vocal about them in order to drive wider awareness.

There are plenty of women in key roles and management positions and they are great role models for others looking to enter the industry or sectors that are still male-dominated. There is a long road ahead but if we all just do a little bit more to push for greater equality and diversity, we will get there and we will all benefit as a result. 

EB: I believe we will know we are doing enough when we do not need to ask this question anymore. If you look at the industry in general, yes, I believe that the industry is at the forefront of ensuring that diversity in the workplace is given high priority. The industry pushes for an inclusive environment, companies have the right policies in place and when I look around at my current work environment, I see a group of diverse people, from all walks of life, coming together to work towards common goals, who feel confident and at ease to share their opinions and work in a welcoming environment. 

I believe that the industry is made up by the people that work in it and therefore it is the responsibility of each and every one of us to ensure we continue to strive for an inclusive and diverse industry, and moreover, a more inclusive and diverse world. 

VH: Things have started to move in the right direction over the last few years and companies are working towards being more inclusive. It’s an ongoing process, but people are learning and having more open and honest conversations. The majority of C-suite roles are still filled by men, but I think this is something that will change.

NT: I think in general the gambling industry is providing entertainment to all kinds of people all over the world. That means the industry must provide games and experiences that meet a wide range of interests, cultures and preferences and this, in turn, requires companies working in the sector to be diverse. Of course, there is always room for improvement, but I think the gambling industry is by far one of the best when it comes to promoting diversity.

SBC: What more could be done to attract additional female talent to the industry? 

SC: We need to let people know that they can make a difference and that there are plenty of opportunities within the industry. There are also some truly incredible female role models that have broken down barriers and achieved great things. This needs to be celebrated and shared outside of the industry so that female talent can see that they too can smash through glass ceilings in the sector. 

That is why I am passionate about webinars, forums, roundtables and so on and especially those that talk about the subject of gender equality and wider diversity. The more attention we raise, the faster progress will be made. To do that, we should all see ourselves as being a driving force and by being vocal and visible we can achieve amazing things. 

EB: For talented people who want to work, regardless of their gender, there are some factors which undoubtedly will attract them towards a particular industry. People need to feel that their needs are addressed, that they are provided support, that they have opportunities to grow and that they are heard and understood. 

Therefore, representation is key. I believe that in every hierarchical level of an organisation, when appointing decision makers, the gender ratio of the company should be taken into consideration. Decision makers within an organisation are then a good and fair representation of the work force and can keep the interests and concerns of the employees in mind when making decisions that directly affect the employees. 

This should not come at the cost of appointing someone less deserving, to reach the correct proportions. Instead, organisations should be continuously working to ensure that they have a pool of talented people to choose from and that no appointment hinders the business and its growth.

Speaking about women in particular, it is no secret that for those women who decide to have children, the most difficult and current challenge they face is finding the right balance between work and their family, particularly when the parental responsibilities are not shared with a partner or not shared equally. Having the right policies in place which allow women to take care of their children whilst still providing them with the opportunity to reach their professional goals is likely to attract more talented women to the industry. 

VH: Having more focus on STEM subjects for girls in school would be a great step forward – technical roles still tend to be filled with more males than females, but that’s not a gaming-specific problem. I think HR and Recruitment teams need to actively market roles to female candidates and let prospective employees know that the industry has moved forward. 

NT: In my opinion, a lot of jobs within the gambling industry are still getting genderised albeit subconsciously. This is mostly due to the naturally slow progress of change in human behaviour. But the industry also needs to find a way to make it more attractive to women at an early stage in their careers. 

This should start with ensuring the industry promotes itself by providing a welcoming and encouraging environment to female talent. That being said, it’s still up to us women to trust ourselves and step into jobs that in the past have been dominated by men. 

SBC: What would you say to other females considering entering the gambling industry? 

EB: If you are willing to learn new skills, share your knowledge, challenge yourself, be part of a global team and wish to work in a fun, ever-changing and dynamic environment, then the iGaming industry is for you! 

VH: Go for it! Don’t be intimidated if you’re the only woman sitting around the conference table (real or virtual) . The gambling industry has a lot of opportunities for ambitious people – if you’re willing to put in the work, your efforts will be rewarded. There is a supportive community, so don’t be afraid to reach out to other women working in the industry for help and advice with your career.

SC: Be yourself and certainly don’t look down on yourself because you are a female or a minority or in my case both. I am the only female in my team at the moment, but I was recruited and promoted based on my skills and abilities and not because I am a woman and HR needed to tick a box. Always do you and just do your best to achieve and surpass your goals – and don’t be afraid to dream big. 

In an ideal world gender equality would already have been achieved but in the real world that is not the case. This means you sometimes have to fight for your rights and be proactive and perhaps a little aggressive to open the opportunities that you need to achieve your goals. But always fight for your rights as ultimately this is the only way to make change happen. Be the driving force and pave the way for other females and minorities to follow. 

NT: It’s the same step for us women as it is for men to apply for a job role. We should not hold ourselves back because we might be intimidated by the other candidates applying for the position, regardless of whether they are men or women. If you think you are the best candidate for a role, just go for it – you will be positively surprised by how exciting and full of surprises the industry is. 

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