When Kelley Tucky started working in the gaming industry in the 1990s, she came to dread Sunday nights; she knew that at a regular Monday morning meeting, her boss was going to berate her for things beyond her control.
When Meeta Shah began working as an architect, the native of India was told she didn’t understand the construction technology necessary to work in the United States, despite her boss admitting, “You know how to design buildings.”
Candice Borrego, after quitting college to get married and raise a family, had to learn to navigate the male-dominated worlds of finance and banking once she re-entered the workforce.
And when Christine Eickelman started in the gaming industry 30 years ago, she was the only woman at many meetings.
“It was tough. I’m not going to lie,” said Eickelman, Gaming Laboratories International’s vice president of global marketing. “I was from a very small town and I had to learn very quickly. I was lucky that I had good sponsors and very good mentors who brought me through the ranks and helped me develop the confidence to do what I do every day.”
Tucky, Shah, Borrego, and Eickelman spoke Wednesday during the G2E session “Women in Gaming: Breaking Down the Walls – In Partnership with Global Gaming Women,” moderated by American Project Management Managing Partner Jane Lee at the Venetian Expo in Las Vegas.
Each of the women said they improved their circumstances through a collective determination to prove their worth and not be taken for granted. Tucky, vice president of strategic communications for San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, recalled finally taking a stand against her unreasonable boss.
“I’m Irish and big-tempered and he said something that made me crack. I couldn’t handle any more,” Tucky said. “I don’t condone any form of violence, but I kicked his desk – and that was the moment the tide turned. That was our tipping pointing and from that point on our relationship was very different, very much one of full respect.”
Shah realized she needed a mentor, but also recognized she needed to help herself.
“I remember going to Home Depot and learning construction,” said Shah, a principal at Bergman Walls & Associates, a hospitality and gaming-design firm. “I went to construction sites and talked to people. They helped me. Step by step, slowly, I became what I am, thanks to people along the way who coached and mentored me.”
The ability to strike partnerships, form teams, and share information with peers is essential, according to the panelists. And it’s most important to make sure that women who want to advance are told that they’re capable.
“I think it’s incumbent on all men and women to coach and not just women, but younger men as well, and instill in them the confidence that they can do all the things they need to do to progress,” said Borrego, senior vice president and relationship manager for the U.S. Bank Gaming Division.
Eickelman said that sometimes women are so focused on work and wanting to prove their worth, they forget to be their own best advocates.
“Let the work speak for itself,” Eickelman said. “And along the way, others will discover something that you’ve never seen within yourself. You don’t know what your capabilities are and saying yes to more of those opportunities, as opposed to questioning yourself, is key.
“I certainly wouldn’t have been in this industry for close to 30 years now had I not had someone observe a skill that I had that I didn’t even realize I was displaying.”