A focus on recruiting from within the industry could be hindering attempts to close the gender pay gap in the gambling industry, according to All-in Diversity co-founders Kelly Kehn and Christina Thakor-Rankin. By Hannah Gannagé-Stewart
Speaking to iGaming Business, the All-in Diversity duo and other market analysts agree that the pay gap could not be put down to pecuniary discrimination alone, arguing that recruitment also has a part to play.
Earlier this month, Ladbrokes Coral was the first bookie to release its gender pay gap data ahead of the government’s 4 April, 2018 deadline, revealing that women at the company are paid on average 15% less per hour than men.
It also showed that women’s mean bonus pay at the firm is 76% lower than men’s, but that a greater percentage of female staff (80%) received a bonus compared with men (77%) over the reporting period.
The bookmaker concluded that its bonus pay gap was greater as a result of there being too few women at the top of the business.
“The median bonus pay difference of 25% is largely a result of a greater proportion of males at the higher grades and higher bonus levels,” says its report.
There are two women — Annemarie Durbin and Stevie Spring — on the board of directors, and one on the senior management team, group general counsel Lindsay Beardsell, equating to 21% of the most senior roles in the business.
“We are working on improving female representation at these higher grades to reduce this difference,” says the report.
All-in Diversity founders Kehn and Thakor-Rankin say Ladbrokes’ pledge to get more women into senior roles will help, but warn that the industry may not be doing enough to attract the best talent into those positions.
“We have a serious problem in this industry, which is using the term ‘must have gambling experience’ when we hire,” Kehn explains, suggesting this narrow focus is creating a barrier to entry.
“We somehow think we have this specialised knowledge in gambling, and the truth of the matter is that we don’t, we isolate ourselves from talent by using that term.”
Kehn says she expects Ladbrokes is no different to the industry at large in that respect, and believes that it would improve its chances of closing the gender pay gap if actively seeking talent from outside the gambling sector was also part of its mission statement on the issue.
“Everyone has an initiative to bring girls into tech. But once they get in, you’re going to find that gambling is at a further disadvantage, simply because you have an industry image problem,” she adds.
“There’s just that stigma that comes with gambling. It’s completely wrong and bullshit but it’s there. Someone coming into tech might have exactly the skill sets that you need but they will also have a choice about where they want to work, if they’re really good talent.”
Thakor-Rankin echoes her sentiment. “When you’re recruiting, get the advert right so that you’re attracting the right character. Don’t bang on about betting and gambling,” she says.
“Talk about what the skill set is from the role. If they haven’t worked out from the company name that it’s betting and gambling then you’re probably not that bothered about them!”
She also suggests employers make sure that interview panels consist of both men and women. “That way you get both different sets of questions and different perceptions of the answers,” she says.
Micky Swindale is head of advisory services and business development at KPMG’s Isle of Man and Gibraltar offices. She has extensive experience of the igaming industry, including running workshops on gender diversity in the sector.
“Whenever I look at gender pay gap figures for these companies, my instinctive reaction is ‘actually nobody is looking at a man and a woman in the same roles and saying we’re going to pay the woman less’,” she says.
“There might be some very occasional instances and there might be some substance in men being better at asking for pay rises, but generally speaking most people have salary structures and they wouldn’t dream of discriminating against women.”
She, along with KPMG, is a strong advocate of the 30% Club, a campaign launched in the UK in 2010 with a goal of achieving a minimum of 30% women on FTSE 100 boards.
The figure currently stands at 27.9%, up from 12.5% when the initiative launched — placing Ladbrokes Coral’s 21% into some context. In the grand scheme of things, Ladbrokes is not that far behind.
Andrew Bulloss is a partner in the London office of recruitment consultancy Odgers Berndtson, which regularly recruits for the gambling industry. He says the industry could be doing more to distance itself from its laddish reputation but also believes progress is being made.
“From what I can see, at a senior level in the industry pay by gender is fair and comparable. There are a number of female senior executives, especially in the Scandinavian operators and suppliers, who based on our data, are paid comparably to their male counterparts. The evidence we have available does not suggest any significant difference.”
He says there has been a “conscious effort by gambling firms to try and attract more diverse talent to their boards too in recent years”, highlighting NetEnt for having achieved a 50-50 gender split across its workforce.
While he supports Kehn and Thakor’s desire to bring talent in from outside of the industry, he says doing so is difficult. “For a large majority of roles there are very specialist skill sets that can only be found in the industry; heads of sports book, heads of casinos — these are very industry led roles. Gaming isn’t alone in that – I’ve worked in a lot of different industries and similar problems exist in banking, utilities and credit cards,” he explains.
On top of the skills requirements, he says betting and gambling is suffering from “a perfect storm” in terms of its reputation. “When we’re talking to people from outside of the sector for every one person that says yes, nine say no,” he says.
“People either have incredibly strong moral feelings towards it, or they are ambivalent and prefer to go somewhere else. So although we have successfully hired people from outside of the sector, it is really hard to do.”
Tackling these recruitment issues is a critical part of avoiding tokenism. While bringing more women into the industry is important, doing so at the cost of the businesses involved is clearly counterproductive.
As Bulloss puts it: “Organisations could do a better job of explaining why they want more female staff, not just because it’s the right thing to do but because of the commercial advantage of it.”
Related articles: Moving away from gender stereotypes (paywall)
Ladbrokes Coral reveals 15% gender pay gap
Why we need greater gender diversity in our boardrooms (paywall)
Closing the gap (paywall)