G2E: Global Gaming Women panel shares keys to retaining top talent

October 13, 2023 3:54 PM
Photo: CDC Gaming Reports
  • Mark Gruetze, CDC Gaming Reports
October 13, 2023 3:54 PM

Room J, down a hallway from the bustle of the G2E crowd at the Venetian Expo, might have looked like an empty ballroom, except for five tables and about 20 folding chairs.

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But the sign at the entrance designated it a quiet room, a place for attendees to think, chill out, or nap; they could also work, if they did so with devices muted and no talking allowed.

In a larger sense, it indicated a general acceptance that even experienced gaming professionals need their space, said Christie Eickelman, vice president of global marketing for Gaming Laboratories International. “That (room) would have never happened at a trade show before. That means society is more accepting of allowing us to be more quiet.”

She spoke Oct. 10 at a Global Gaming Expo panel discussion titled “Lessons in Leadership: The GGW Model,” with a focus on how to retain top talent. Also on the panel were Cassie Stratford, senior vice president of legal operations and regulatory compliance for Boyd Gaming, and Anika Howard, the first president and CEO of online-gaming-company WONDR Nation, the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation’s newest venture. Lauren Bates, vice president of sales at Konami Gaming and first vice president of Global Gaming Women (GGW), moderated.

Eickelman had to teach herself to relax, because she thought she always had to be doing something. “I think society kind of keeps that on, especially for women.”

Stratford, currently GGW president and chair, said everyone needs something outside work, such as time with loved ones or a hobby. That benefits not only themselves, but also their team at work. “It’s unhealthy for teams to see a boss who just grinds it out, never goes home, doesn’t have a personal life of any kind. It’s not just helpful for yourself, but it’s another talent-retention tool, because your team will see it. That sets a really positive example; it makes you human as a leader and it builds rapport and trust.”

Howard said she learned “the art of the sacred no” from her mother. That means being able and willing to decline a request and to be OK with it. “The other piece is that saying no is sometimes required, because you can’t pour from an empty cup.”

Bates said leanin.org, a strategic partner of GGW, recently reported that more than one million women have left the U.S. workforce since 2020. Howard blamed some of the exodus on workplace leaders who focus solely on tasks at hand as opposed to the people their team members are. “There’s been a core need … to feel valued and feel seen,” she said. “It’s not just, ‘I want to do something to get a paycheck,’ but ‘I want to be fulfilled.’”

Leanin.org and McKinsey & Co. recently released the 2023 “Women in the Workplace” report, the largest study on women in corporate America. Key findings include:

  • Over the past nine years, women – especially women of color – remain underrepresented throughout the corporate pipeline. However, the presence of women in C-suites has increased from 17 percent in 2015 to 28 percent in 2023.
  • Progress remains slow for women at the manager and director levels, creating a weak middle in the pipeline and impacting the majority of women in corporate America.
  • For the ninth consecutive year, women face their biggest hurdle at the first critical step up to manager. In 2023, for every 100 men promoted from entry level to manager, 87 women were promoted. For women of color, the gap is worse: 73 women of color were promoted to manager for every 100 men. Instead of a glass ceiling keeping women from top positions, this “broken-rung” issue is the biggest workplace barrier women face, according to the survey.

GGW was formed in 2011 and now has 6,800 members. Eickelman, who started with GLI 25 years ago, said few women attended industry trade shows then. “Now we have rooms full of women. They’re part of the core of the industry.”

Bates said GGW will launch its first formal mentorship program next year and urged members to participate.

Stratford said GGW has helped improved the industry, but “we wouldn’t be here today if we didn’t think that there was some work to be done. We’ve got a ways to go, but we’re making progress. When we’re all on the same field playing with the same skill sets, it’s better for the industry.”