Jesper Svensson: Industry has come a long way since “grotesque” days of trade show pole dancing

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Betsson Operations CEO Jesper Svensson believes the gambling industry has made big strides in diversity and inclusion (D&I) since the beginning of his career but admits there is still much work to be done.

Svensson was speaking on a panel of C-level executives about the creation of inclusive workplaces, alongside Triggy CEO Martina Akerlund and BeyondPlay CTO Cristina Turbatu. The panel was part of a diversity and inclusion-focused conference track presented by iGaming NEXT in collaboration with Betsson Group.

“I remember when I started in the industry, the first event I went to at ICE, they were using pole dancers,” Svensson told the audience of conference attendees. “That was not very inclusive. In fact, it was quite grotesque. 

“When you look back 15 years to how it was back then, versus how it is today, there has been a really, really good and healthy development in many ways. But there’s still quite a bit left still to do.”

Svensson’s fellow panellists agreed that the industry’s approach has improved significantly, driven by forward-thinking companies and executives who put the topic at the centre of their corporate strategy.

Within businesses, the most important thing for creating an inclusive workplace is to embed it within a company’s culture, the panel agreed.

“When you look back 15 years to how it was back then, versus how it is today, there has been a really, really good and healthy development in many ways. But there’s still quite a bit left still to do.”

Svensson continued: “If we all agree that talent doesn’t see colour, age, gender, or anything like this, then you need to have a representation that reflects society in many ways, or the parts of the society you’re focusing on as a company. 

“I think in any company, the C-levels need to look at themselves and say, ‘it doesn’t matter who you are, as long as you have talent’, and give people a chance for that. And if executives don’t agree with that, they’re probably not very talented, and they should not be at the C-level to begin with.”

The panel said that in addition to creating the best possible workplace environment, championing D&I as a strategy can also bring significant commercial benefits.

BeyondPlay CTO Turbatu said: “We believe that you need to have diverse environments in order to develop diverse products and be able to address the entire market.

“I think for many years in the gaming industry, this has not necessarily been focused on. Within our company, we did try to build a diverse environment from the start, not only from a male and female or other gender perspective, but also culturally.”

The ability to create cultural diversity within a business has been one of the benefits of the widespread introduction of remote and hybrid work in recent years, Turbatu added.

“Working remotely at the moment does facilitate the ability to address multiple cultures and multiple age groups, and I think by having all those viewpoints when you design a product, especially at the start, gives you the ability to have an impact on what you’re building and how you’re addressing it.

“I think having feedback from all people at the table is very important in any industry,” she added. 

About the author

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Conor Mulheir

Conor entered the gaming industry in 2018 producing high-level live event content for audiences in London, Amsterdam and São Paulo. From 2020, he went on to report news and commission exclusive content for various gaming media brands before joining iGaming NEXT as editor in January 2022.

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