Valid or not, with all the negative publicity regarding the use of “scantily clad” women as models at gambling trade shows and how it is a “significant stain on this industry’s reputation”, I wanted to dedicate this week’s column to how wonderful it is to work in the gambling industry as a female. The media in general tends to focus on negativity, so lets talk about something positive for a change.
Everyone knows I absolutely love working in this industry and that I am so grateful for all the opportunities I’ve been given along the way. Vikki Baptie of the award-winning Tapzia Limited has also been working in the gambling industry for 10+ years and she too loves our professional environment and the support she has been given by her employers and peers.
Baptie, who worked for Bingo Cams and has since started her own consultancy and launched bingo brands KatiesBingo.com and ZoesBingo.com, does not agree with the criticism our industry received from the UKGC’s outgoing CEO Sarah Harrison and The Guardian.
“I didn’t actually realize [the news] was as big as it was going to become, because my first reaction was quite flippin’. ‘Yea I’m going to put Katie’s Bingo on one boob and Zoe’s Bingo on the other one and walk around next year’”, Baptie joked.
“But from what I’ve read, the more it gets to that people are focusing – and its not just women, we’ve seen in other interviews and other videos where its men as well – saying the industry is sexist. I wouldn’t have stayed around an industry that was sexist for ten years, that’s the first thing”, she said.
“And the second thing is they’re focusing on all the wrong things. What we need to focus on is what women actually need to function at that high level or what they need to remain in the industry for any length of time. What do gambling companies need to do and what are they already doing that facilitates women within the industry. It’s about focusing on the positives”, she added.
Baptie is full of examples of how working in the gambling industry has been amazing for her as a female professional and for anyone, really- male or female – especially when it comes to her former employer Bingo Cams, a company she now freelances for part-time.
“Jake my baby is just about 12 weeks old and its taken us three years, we’ve had to go through three lots of IVF and I was completely supported through that. I was freelance most of that time and I was paid every month, it didn’t matter whether I had worked ten hours, or whether I had worked 50 hours, I was paid the same. In December, I basically didn’t work at all and as a freelancer, you shouldn’t really get paid if you don’t work at all”, Baptie shared.
She went on to provide more examples of how Bingo Cams accommodated her maternity leave and how they provided the same support to men on her team who were going through family health issues.
“It didn’t really matter that I was a woman, because they equally support men at the same time”, she said.
I’m sure there are plenty more examples within our industry similar to Baptie’s, something both she and I believe the industry should do a better job of highlighting.
“This is what we should be focusing on, not these women, who are looking great, who are knowing what they’re getting into! It should just be about mutual respect, but not about telling people what to wear or how they should look”, Baptie said.
“If people saw me when I’m out in Newcastle – how would this be different? Everybody knows the opinion of women who are from Newcastle [laughs] we love short skirts with little tops, its fine! Its empowering – its women’s choice if that’s how they want to dress or want to go out or want to work. Its not for us to say that they should be allowed to do that, its for us to say that they should be respected in their choice”, she added.
At the same time, there are women in the gambling industry who do not appreciate the use of promo models and their voices should be heard. However, rather than “scolding” the industry as a whole in a public forum, perhaps there is a better approach for trying to find a reasonable solution.
“I think the negative publicity is having the opposite effect – its putting women off – and for the head of the gambling and licensing authority to say that she’s going to not go to events, she should be saying the opposite!”, Baptie suggested.
“[The UKGC] should have the biggest stand, they should be there speaking to people, understanding why they are choosing to do things and to make a change from the inside, not berating people like they’re naughty children who shouldn’t have promo girls. They should be working with the industry, not against it”, she said.