Helen Galloway is leading the fight for gender equality in the gaming industry in her role as CEO of Women in Gaming Australasia.
Ben Blaschke: Can you tell us a bit about the history of Women in Gaming Australasia (WGA) and what you are working to achieve?
Helen Galloway: WGA was founded by The Star Entertainment Group and Aristocrat in May 2017. They identified gender equality issues were not isolated to one company and the greatest impact would be through a united industry approach. WGA received registration as a not for profit entity in November 2017. I was employed in March 2018 and together with our Project Manager, Stephanie, we have been marching forward to remove barriers and increase opportunities for the advancement of women in the gaming industry.
Women in Gaming has five focus areas:
- Increasing the awareness of women’s contribution to the industry
- Identifying and removing barriers to the entry, retention and advancement of women
- Providing a common meeting ground for women
- Fostering the continual professional development of women via mentoring, training, scholarships and awards
- To unite with other industry organisation to promote equitable outcomes for women.
WGA currently has five corporate partners: The Star Entertainment Group, Aristocrat, SKYCITY, Crown Resorts and ALH Group. We are actively seeking more corporate partners to join us, as more partners increases awareness and allows more programs to be delivered. This in turn allows better transformation of the systemic gender issues within the industry.
BB: What motivated you to become involved in this important initiative?
HG: I was motivated by my own lived experiences within the industry. As I became more aware of the barriers I faced and could see them limiting other women, I also became aware that there are actions that everyone can take and if they do these on a regular basis we can reduce the systemic issues.
For example, back in 2011 Rob Goldstein from Las Vegas Sands invited me to join the Global Gaming Executive. I was the first and only female alongside nine males and we created the strategy for all the jurisdictions of LVS. There was one particular strategy that I suggested and we then proceeded to change the strategic direction of Sands China for a significant part of the market.
This was a huge change for Sands China and proved to be incredibly profitable for many years. In this example, the actions Rob took were very simple: he actively sought out gender diversity from the top down, he listened to a different style of thinking and credited the idea to the person. It is a text book example of how gender equality creates better decision making, greater innovation and improves profitability.
BB: How far has the local gaming industry come in the time since Women in Gaming Australasia was launched?
HG: There is no silver bullet to achieving equitable outcomes for women. The first step is creating awareness of these systemic issues, the next step is educating for action. Everyone has a role to play in creating equitable outcomes.
As a new industry body, we have been focused on raising awareness and seeking action. We have some really exciting initiatives this year including an unconscious bias activity that will be available on our website to help people understand that we are all biased and how you can become aware of your biases; a gender action toolkit with simple steps to promote gender equality and our current focus with our International Women’s Day toolkit to seek action in hosting activities to celebrate the political, cultural, economic and social contributions of women.
BB: Gender equality is obviously an issue across many industries. How does the gaming industry compare?
HG: In the gaming industry, the research shows that the number of women that make up senior leadership teams is up slightly from 2017, from 20.8% to 21.5% but only 5.9% of CEOs are females; down from 7.1% in 2017.
Across all industries, 17.1% of CEOs are female and women make up 30.5% of senior leadership teams. There is still a way to go for all industries but compared to the figures I mentioned earlier, the gaming industry is lagging.
BB: What have been the specific barriers women have traditionally faced when it comes to progressing through to leadership positions?
HG: There are numerous barriers that arise in many different forms to stall women’s career progression.
Research tells us males get promoted on potential, whereas women are promoted on past performance. Now women often suffer from the “stolen idea” whereby their idea or solution to a company issue is often credited to male colleagues. What this means is not only are men and women being measured in different ways to get to leadership positions, women are being unfairly biased by having a measure incorrectly calculated.
Another barrier is understanding the language used in the recruitment process and how it can influence applicants. Research has demonstrated this in an example of changing “manage a team of x” to “develop a team of x”. By changing one word the number of female applicants increased.
Women often lack confidence in their own abilities and require support to apply for roles. This is where mentors and sponsors can assist to overcome this barrier. In fact, Women in Gaming has recently offered three formal mentoring program placements to our members via an expression of interest process. We were inundated with applicants who understand that formal mentoring has been proven to increase the advancement of women.
BB: Do you see any similar efforts supporting women being made across Asia?
HG: I do see the natural expansion of Women in Gaming Australasia to the northern hemisphere to fully accommodate the Asia region. There will, of course, be different systemic gender barriers in each country attributed to cultural differences. Extending the initiative into Asia is relevant due to the cross movement of human capital in the region, particularly on the supplier side of the gaming industry.
As an accountant I can also say that Women in Gaming as an industry body is an effective use of scarce resources. It allows companies to pool their money together into Women in Gaming and allows us to create suitable resources for this industry. For example, we are creating a gender action plan that can be adopted at a department or organizational level. This allows organizations to utilize their energy in taking action, rather than determining what to do.
Our focus is currently Australia and New Zealand, but further corporate partner funding will set our future geographic path.
BB: What benefits have you observed for organizations that truly embrace diversification as part of the company culture?
HG: The benefits of diverse inclusive companies have been proven through numerous studies. They are improved decision making, increased productivity and higher levels of innovation which all lead to better financial performance.
Diverse and inclusive companies have higher staff retention and find it is easier to attract staff. This gives them a competitive advantage of a wider talent pool. Acknowledging the diversity advantage is a fundamental of good business.
BB: It’s International Women’s Day on 8 March. What initiatives can we expect and what can people do to contribute?
HG: International Women’s Day (IWD) is a global celebration of the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. It’s also a day to identify actions that every person can take to help drive better outcomes for women.
We’ve put together an IWD toolkit, which is available on our website to download which features 10 activities that individuals and organizations can do to celebrate. However you choose to celebrate, make sure you engage all of your employees to join in the celebration!