Sonja’s Standpoint: How iGaming companies can help to address the C-level gender imbalance
On the occasion of International Women’s Day, we bring you a special edition of Sonja’s Standpoint.
Eschewing token gestures, iGaming Next asked Sonja to share her perspective on gender diversity in the workplace.
The Status Quo
It’s that time of year again: Today is International Women’s Day.
In the corporate world, companies are celebrating every woman “achiever” they have ever been associated with to show how they support gender equality and female empowerment.
At the same time, we debate on the pros and cons of gender quotas in the workplace, and particularly for corporate leadership team members.
We all know that the iGaming industry has traditionally been male-dominated and that for a long time, the only women welcome in the industry were those dressed in feathered costumes or bikinis.
Admittedly, the industry has made progress in recent years, and as Betsson CEO Jesper Svensson remarked, it has come a long way since the “grotesque” days of trade show pole dancing.
However, while more women now work in iGaming, we are still underrepresented in the C-suite.
A survey conducted by the All-in Diversity Project found that women now account for 47% of iGaming industry workers.
However, as you move up the corporate ladder, that percentage decreases significantly, with just 17% holding CEO or MD positions.
There are, of course, a few exceptions to the rule. FanDuel chief Amy Howe and Entain CEO Jette Nygaard-Andersen, for example, but many gambling companies still have a male-dominated top team that resembles an “old boys club”.
Over the past 20 years, I have interviewed many female leaders, and it may surprise you to learn that many of them were hesitant to discuss their rise to the top as a woman.
Instead, they often expressed a preference to be recognised purely as a leader and felt that any reference to succeeding in a male-oriented industry would be counterproductive to normalising the fact that women occupy leadership roles.
I must confess that I too have conflicting emotions about this day.
My reservations are not related to celebrating women, but more about the tendency to overlook the critical conversations that must take place to tackle the underlying issues and assumptions.
The question of why women are still underrepresented in leadership positions is complex, and there is no one answer.
However, I’d like to share a few observations.
“My reservations are not related to celebrating women, but more about the tendency to overlook the critical conversations that must take place to tackle the underlying issues and assumptions.”
First, I think the way we view women who aspire to reach the top needs to be discussed.
Women in leadership positions often say they are getting feedback that they are overly confident or aggressive.
Their ambition and assertion is viewed negatively, whereas the same behaviour is viewed positively in men.
The issue of motherhood is frequently raised, but the question of choosing not to have children is also surprisingly contentious.
Female leaders are often told that their success is down to the fact that they did not have, or do not intend to have, children, instead of recognising their hard work and competence.
Likewise, general attitudes about working mothers remain outdated.
The unspoken assumption that women returning from parental leave will no longer desire promotions, will shy away from new challenges, or simply won’t be fully immersed in their jobs any more are sadly still very common.
While it is undoubtedly challenging to balance professional work with raising a family, it is not a situation where one has to choose between the two.
The time is right
Companies looking to fully leverage the potential of their female staff should be open to alternative career paths.
Many of us have grown up with the notion that by the time we reach ‘middle age’, we should have worked our way up the corporate ladder.
However, for many women, the opposite is true, and they often reach their career peaks in the second half of their lives.
It is important to realise that our 30s and early 40s are not necessarily the critical make-or-break acceleration phase of our careers, despite what we have been led to believe.
Many women spend the first half of their lives juggling professional growth with what I call “family responsibilities”, such as caring for children, supporting sick or ageing parents, and other domestic issues.
However, as society changes and progresses, the traditional model of career advancement becomes increasingly obsolete.
Some women may choose to accelerate their careers in the second half of their lives when they have the time to prioritise their professional ambitions.
Celebrating career diversity
To successfully promote gender diversity in the workplace, it is crucial for companies to acknowledge and accommodate the unique career trajectories of women.
The traditional “up-or-out” model, where you either progress or move on, is still prevalent in many internal talent management programmes, but is not always conducive to a woman’s career goals and aspirations.
The iGaming industry and the broader tech sector are known for their innovative HR policies, but there is a need for a new approach to career management that is more inclusive and recognises career diversity.
In doing so, companies can promote broader access for women to the highest levels of responsibility and help to address the gender gap in senior leadership positions.
The 2023 All-Index is now open for participation. The survey is free for all participants, and to any business or organisation within the betting and gaming sector globally. The deadline to submit is 31 March 2023.