Anyone who works within the gambling industry is fully aware that we’re dealing with a very masculine environment that attracts a lot of males as leaders, employees and customers. The women working in the gambling world clearly need some brass in order to hang with the big boys, a trait most of these women had before they even started working in the gambling business.
As the gambling industry matures, we keep seeing more and more ladies appearing in the limelight, further proving that there is less and less of a gap between the sexes…when it comes to the professional world, of course.
The American Gaming Association (AGA) is an advocate of the gambling industry and an organization addressing federal regulatory and legislative issues that influence the industry, its clients and its customers. Frank Fahrenkopf is the President and CEO of the AGA and Judy Patterson is the Senior Vice President and Executive Director. The AGA Board of Directors is comprised of CEOs from big name gambling companies and suppliers, both male and female.
We caught up with SVP Judy Patterson to talk about the development of Global Gaming Women (GGW), a program recently launched by the AGA to nurture female leaders in the global gambling industry and to help “close the gap” between male and female leaders. AGA members Patti Hart and Virginia McDowell, both on the GGW Board of Directors, have worked with Patterson to develop the concept, launch the program and improve its features.
“The idea for GGW was born of a conversation I had with the AGA’s two female board members: Patti Hart, CEO of IGT, and Virginia McDowell, president and CEO of Isle of Capri Casinos. It goes without saying that the gaming industry is a predominantly male one,” explains Patterson. “Though we recently have seen women rise to greater levels of leadership across the industry, we all recognized there was more that could be done to close the gap. Patti and Virginia still serve as co-chairs of the initiative and have played an integral role developing its mission and programs”.
There are other programs aimed at “recognizing” successful women in the gambling industry, although some view this type of approach as highlighting the separation between men and women rather than closing the gap between the two sexes. When asked how GGW is different from the other groups that cater to the female members of the gambling industry, Patterson had a very clear answer.
“This was of foremost concern to all of us when we started down this path,” she says. “Virginia, in particular, was adamant that we not create another program based around mere awards and pep rallies for women. The mission of Global Gaming Women is to support the development and success of women in the international gaming industry through education, mentorship and networking opportunities. The program is designed to help women of the industry learn from each other, share ideas and take advantage of career opportunities”.
She adds, “Since our launch at G2E 2011, we have hosted more than a dozen networking and education events around the world with the help of key partners like the International Masters of Gaming Law (IMGL) and Global Gaming Expo, and have launched a comprehensive website at www.GlobalGamingWomen.org, which provides women of the industry with a dynamic set of tools to connect, learn from their peers and stay on top of industry and larger business trends—all with the goal of advancing their careers”.
With the vision of education and connecting with peers in mind, it should come as no surprise that GGW is gearing up to launch a mentoring program for their members.
“We hope to launch our mentor network in early 2013,” explains Patterson. “The easiest way to describe this tool, which we are developing with the generous support of SHFL entertainment, is to compare it to an online dating site like Match.com. In this case, industry professionals seeking advice and mentorship will use self-selected criteria to connect with experienced professionals in the field willing to mentor young talent. We are incredibly excited about its potential and tremendously grateful to Gavin Isaacs and his team at SHFL for lending their time and expertise to its development”.
In the meantime, GGW offers another educational and unique video feature on their website, playfully dubbed as “coffee break”. We asked Patterson to elaborate on this feature as it’s the first of its kind.
“Coffee Break: Gaming Leadership Strategies in 1 Minute or Less,” is a video series showcasing female industry leaders conducting interviews and offering insight and advice on business in a relatable and easily accessible format,” explains Patterson. “These videos are really intended for anyone – female or male – looking for guidance on leadership, management and business from proven leaders in their field”.
There it is again, GGW making a point that this feature is intended for ANYONE in the gambling industry, further evidence that this organization is aimed at closing the male vs. female gap rather than highlighting it.
Another unique feature of GGW is the number of live networking events that they schedule for members around the world, throughout the year. At this stage in the game, GGW does not have confirmed dates on the calendar for 2013, but they most certainly have some ambitious plans in development.
“Women can definitely expect to see GGW events next year in London around ICE: Totally Gaming this February and in Macau during G2E Asia this May. We also are working with local partners in Iowa, Australia and Latin America at the moment, and hope to get plans on the books for those jurisdictions soon. Another goal for next year is to expand our presence in the U.S. tribal gaming market, which hopefully will translate to events in conjunction with national and regional Indian Gaming events. Finally, we have tremendous partners in both IMGL and the International Association of Gaming Advisors, so you can generally expect to see GGW events whenever those organizations gather as well,” confirms Patterson.
For anyone interested in getting involved with GGW, Patterson encourages joining the GlobalGamingWomen.org mailing list as this is their primary vehicle for communicating with the GGW audience. You can also find the Global Gaming Women group on LinkedIn, another way to connect with fellow female professionals in the industry.
Patterson finished our chat by adding that GGW is very much interested in hearing from women who would like to self-organize GGW events in their jurisdictions or companies.
“The ultimate goal for GGW is for it to be an industry-run effort not merely a program of the AGA. We are inching that way, but it would be very exciting to see events like those begin to take place,” Patterson adds.