Talk is cheap when it comes to discrimination in the workplace so it’s time women and supportive men up the ante on the gaming industry. (Photo: Ronda Churchill
‘“Data! Data! Data!’ he cried impatiently. ‘I can’t make bricks without clay’” —Arthur Conan Doyle through Sherlock Holmes
The pandemic has made a bad situation worse with respect to women in the gaming industry. Women have been disproportionately affected by the closing of schools with increased demands on their time and attention from children within the household. So too it is with the need to address the challenges of older parents and family members in a pandemic world. These pandemic related circumstances adversely affect job market participation for women, as well as opportunities for advancement.
It is also the case that a great deal of oxygen in the gaming space of late has been consumed by sports betting, and this is an area where it seems the industry believes the most qualified people are male, based on the low level of acceptance of woman in senior executive and management positions. And these trends are all taking place in a gaming industry which has historically demonstrated that women were of lesser importance in populating corporate boards, as well as senior leadership and upper management positions.
One might think in a regulated gaming environment that discriminatory practices would be unacceptable. Most gaming regulatory entities in the U.S. suggest all participants in the industry need to operate with a high level of character, honesty and integrity. Moreover, most regulatory agencies also have a provision that prohibits an unsuitable method of operation by a licensee. I suspect this means our regulatory agencies have no issues with discriminatory employment practices given they are the reality of our workforce statistics. This seems to imply the regulators feel that discrimination is not associated with character, honesty and integrity, and is in fact a suitable means of operation.
One does wonder if a regulatory agency would stand by if a casino’s slots paid out a lesser amount to female patrons and restricted women to a lesser percentage than men in the high-roller areas. Or how about men and women casino customers receiving loyalty rewards differently—such as a woman is only allowed to earn bonus points at the rate of 72 percent of that of a man? The point is regulators are going to continue to hide from this issue and offer much better protections for the consumers of gambling than the employees. It is a huge deal in the regulatory world if an operator is cheating a customer, whereas having an operator cheat an employee out of promotional opportunities, comparable salaries, and the like is cool if it is because the employee is a woman.
Another reality for women in the gaming workplace is that taking an aggressive stance toward diversity contains potential risks. Groups that suffer from second or worse class status are often conditioned to “know their place,” that is, to accept a lesser status and act as if it is in some sense the natural order. They are also “allowed” to participate in functions that do not seem to be causing much change.
Beyond this, however, women who try to speak truth to power may become a casualty and suffer consequences from the men who define the existing ancien régime, be it overt or covert. This needs to be appreciated and respected for the goal of this discussion is not to create martyrs of woman who advocate for justice.
I would suggest women need a new plan to counteract the discriminatory past and present of the gaming industry and thought I would do the very male thing of mansplaining one. Moreover, I will use a man’s quote to justify it by relying on the words of Peter Drucker, who stated: “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.”
In the battle towards equality in the workforce, women need weapons—and a great weapon is data. It is one thing to say the current system sucks, it is another thing to be able to demonstrate it through quantitative measures. There is power in demonstrable facts.
What I am suggesting to any women or supportive men in gaming who find the existing system biased or unfair is to contact someone sympathetic within their state legislature and ask that the industry be required to provide detailed statistics regarding diversity in employment. We want wage and salary averages per job classification, and we want this information in granular form.
Now, one should anticipate the industry and possibly the regulators will say this is either too heavy a lift, or unnecessary. Both responses are nonsense. All modern HR systems with the ability to query make this light work, and if the regulators are cool with obvious discrimination—we need new regulators. If the states can generate detailed gaming device statistics, churning out data for human beings should not be too large a task.
We also want the analysis to be clean and clear, and not so muddled that the books are easily cooked to obscure the underlying reality. This implies a need for the platform design for this tracking system to be assigned to a skilled third-party that will allow for illumination, not obfuscation.
So, my man-guidance is to contact a legislator and tell them the gambling industry discriminates against women, and they can help mitigate this unfortunate reality by causing for a timely and well-designed analysis of salaries, positions, promotions, wages, and the like—by gender. Moreover, the regulators need to publish these statistics quarterly.
This all can be accomplished by simply picking up the telephone or sending along a note to a legislator. If you don’t want to call these folks, send them this article. This will then be taking place behind the scenes and this “uppity” behavior will be invisible to the power base of the industry, i.e., men.
I would also suggest to those who care about diversity that they not only contact their legislators, but they also form an underground railroad of sorts to identify those legislators who share our belief that discrimination is bad. Then, make sure women in the gaming industry and their supporters know who these people are and cause them to understand the importance of contacting them. This provides a viable target for the letters and phone calls for others who want to assist in advocating for sound data tracking of industry discrimination. This underground railroad can also disseminate information with respect to those legislators who do not support this action or are working to block it, thus allowing interested people to call and hold these legislators accountable.
I would also suggest that if this legislation has any real chance of working, it must also contain provisions for discipline. For example, should the industry not make identifiable improvements over some defined period, then the overall tax rate increases for the industry, or those firms that are laggards are fined a material amount, or both. The reason for this is that getting the industry interested in doing the right thing about diversity has proven in the past to be something of a fool’s errand. The industry has done little other than talk about this for a great many years. If there is not a penalty provision, we are wasting our time
The point is simple. An industry cannot be operating with a high degree of character, honesty and integrity if it is penalizing employees within that system simply for their gender. It is time to stop pretending that this is a suitable means of operation and the best way to do this is through legislative intervention. This is a classic example of failure to self-regulate where the industry had the opportunity to do the right thing and failed. It is time for the legislature to explain to them that discrimination based on gender is an unsuitable means of operation and it needs to stop now — or there will be consequences.
Those legislators work for you, so get them working.
This column was originally published in GGBNews, a weekly newsletter produced by Global Gambling Business magazine.
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