Women in Business Feature – Mentorship and education key for helping more women advance to senior roles

Women in Business feature
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Following International Women’s Day this March, Coinslot spoke with female executives and professionals working in the UK’s amusements, leisure and hospitality industry about what more can be done to support women in business. What emerged was a consensus that mentorship, education and support for women with families play a vital role in working towards gender parity, particularly at senior level.

 

To keep the momentum from last month’s International Women’s Day going, Coinslot spoke with female executives and professionals working in the amusements, hospitality and leisure industries to get their take on what more can to be done to support women in business.

This week’s feature brings together 17 female voices from varying senior posts, including MDs, business owners, operations directors, licensing and legal advisors and we also have a European perspective from Greece.

The majority of participants welcomed the forward progress that has been made in recent years towards levelling the playing field for women. Many also praised the effort their companies had invested to create a more inclusive environment.

Nevertheless, the sentiment which emerged is that there remains considerable work to do, both as an industry and at national level. Many of the women we spoke to expressed frustration that progress continues to be so slow, with gender parity in the workplace still some way off.

On a more hopeful note, two key themes emerged from our conversations; the importance of education and fostering new talent, together with the value of mentorship.

Coaching and mentoring strategies to support women’s career paths have emerged as a vital tool in helping women advance their careers in recent years and offer the opportunity for senior female executives and professionals to pass on lessons learned and hard won experience to their junior counterparts. On this basis, it was heartening to note that several businesses in the industry have now implemented formal mentorship programmes for women.

As a way of building on this further, there were also calls for an organised group to help better facilitate a dialogue between women throughout the industry and to provide female executives and employees a platform to meet and share ideas.

Turning to education, the women we spoke to highlighted several points. One of these was for the hospitality and leisure industry to be proactive in presenting itself as a viable career path for women, working with local colleges where possible. Alongside this, several participants also said it was important to reduce barriers to entry and career advancement for non-graduates in order to build a balanced talent pipeline.

With the hospitality industry facing a labour shortage, it was also suggested that women should not be forced to make a binary choice between a career and a family and that businesses in the sector could do more to support women re-entering the workforce, both by recognising their transferable skills and providing opportunities for flexible working.

Beyond these points, all of the women Coinslot interviewed emphasised the need for personal resilience in order to forge a successful career. The need to be “thick-skinned” and “tough” was spotlighted, alongside more positive qualities such as “self-belief”, “a positive work ethic”, and “empathy”. The fact that toughness should be a requirement for a woman to have a successful career, both underlines the challenges many women have faced to advance professionally and suggests the bar for women to excel at a senior level in business continues to be higher than for their male colleagues.

So, let the listening process commence: 17 perspectives of women in business.

 

Sarah Gardner

We need more women in the room, says Gambling Commission deputy CEO Sarah Gardner

 

The Gambling Commission’s deputy CEO Sarah Gardner wants the industry to think about what may be keeping women out of the important meetings about gambling.

While there are exceptions, Gardner being one of them, she is often the only one, exemplifying the fact that the gaming and betting industry is still male dominated when it comes to the top positions.

Sarah Gardner Gambling Commission Women in Business feature
Sarah Gardner Deputy CEO, Gambling Commission

“I do find it sad that it is 2022 and it is not particularly unusual for me to be the only woman in a meeting about gambling and the way it is regulated,” explained Gardner. “Every time that happens, it reminds me that there is a long way to go. I know that there are amazing women out there who could contribute all sorts of valuable things to the issues we are all grappling with in gambling. The question is, what and where are the things preventing them from doing so? I think we could all do more to think a bit harder about this.”

She also acknowledges that progress has been made, bolstered by regulation and research showing the benefits of a gender diverse boardroom.

“There have been many important advances which will have combined over the years to edge things forward little by little,” Gardner explained. “That ranges from formal things like legislation to increasing awareness about the value of the role women can play in business – look at some of the serious research about the performance difference between gender diverse boards and those which are not gender diverse, for example. When we think about this, we often think about the attitude of businesses towards women but I think there have also been important advances the other way round.”

For business leaders, Gardner believes it’s important to track not only how many women are in the business, but also what roles they occupy and how much influence they have on the culture.

“I’d like to see more of that sort of curiosity from leaders to dig more into what life is like for women in business because that’s how these things will get changed and we’ll get that maturity over the longer term,” she concluded. “Oh, and it would be nice to go for a whole year without a meeting involving, say, more than 4 people, where I am the only woman in the room!”

 

Q&A

Coinslot: Are we moving in the right direction when it comes to gender equality and the role of women in business?

Sarah Gardner, deputy CEO of the Gambling Commission: If I look back and compare where we are now to where we were when I started my career over twenty years ago, we have undoubtedly made progress, but the pace is rather pedestrian and still there is further to go.

Early in my career, I was working in a male dominated environment and was delighted to be asked to work on a new project which involved going into some heavy manufacturing businesses. Some colleagues openly questioned whether this was suitable work for a woman! Worse than that, the question was taken seriously and debated by managers. I’d like to think that would be far less likely to happen now and that such comments would be readily challenged as inappropriate, as well as plain silly.

While you might not see so much of that sort of nonsense these days, I think we’ve had some fairly stark reminders recently that opportunities for men and women are not always alike in nature or availability. Look at the research and listen, for example, to the stories you’ll hear from many working women about where childcare, homeschooling and other burdens have tended to fall during the pandemic.

Coinslot: What advances have been made to bring more women into leading roles and where does the industry have to do better?

Sarah Gardner: There have been many important advances which will have combined over the years to edge things forward little by little. That ranges from formal things like legislation to increasing awareness about the value of the role women can play in business – look at some of the serious research about the performance difference between gender diverse Boards and those which are not gender diverse, for example.

When we think about this, we often think about the attitude of businesses towards women, but I think there have also been important advances the other way round.

I do find it sad that it is 2022 and it is not particularly unusual for me to be the only woman in a meeting about gambling and the way it is regulated. Every time that happens, it reminds me that there is a long way to go.

I know that there are amazing women out there who could contribute all sorts of valuable things to the issues we are all grappling with in gambling. The question is, what and where are the things preventing them from doing so? I think we could all do more to think a bit harder about this.

“Great leaders are authentic leaders”

Coinslot: What challenges have you met and overcome in your own career path and what lessons have you learned en route?

Sarah Gardner: I can’t pretend this has always been easy. Like many women, I have agonised about how to make life as a woman and my work fit together. Time isn’t elastic so there are always choices to make. That’s true for everyone and not at all unique to women.

There are some common dilemmas women face though, and I’m no exception. Over the years I’ve worried about many of those including when to have children, how much maternity leave to take, whether to work full-time, whether to work for an extra hour or take the children to the park…it never ends!

What I’ve learned is that most of the things we can do as leaders in organisations to support everyone to give their best at work are often very simple.

Some small things can make a huge difference to some groups who otherwise might be excluded. For example, avoiding scheduling important meetings on a day which part-time workers don’t work or events requiring people to be away from home for the duration of a school holiday is not difficult to do.

It just takes a bit of thought and organisation. For many people, these things can be the difference between feeling like a valued member of the team and feeling excluded and undervalued. Which one of these people is more likely to turn up fully motivated and raring to go? It’s a no brainer for me. These things make a difference to a lot of people, although women in particular because of how women disproportionately fall into the groups where it is particularly relevant such as part time workers.

Coinslot: International Women’s Day is all about female trailblazers sharing their experiences with other women. What key experiences would you pass on and what advice would you offer younger women to help develop their careers today?

Sarah Gardner: The best advice I ever got was from a very successful woman in business fairly early in my career. She pointed out that in business, people imitate the behaviour they see around them, particularly from leaders. For a woman in business, particularly if it is male-dominated, the risk is that she sees success as somehow dependent on her being less herself and more like those around her.

Great leaders are authentic leaders so it’s almost inevitably going to be a mistake to try to create some other ‘work version’ of yourself to fit in with others. Be yourself.

The reason we should all care about equality, diversity and inclusion in our organisations is because getting as rich a blend as possible of skills, backgrounds, experience, instincts and perspectives is what brings success. There is a growing body of evidence about that which also shows the important role women can and do play in the achievements of all sorts of organisations, in all sorts of roles, critically including leadership roles.

Coinslot: Can you share any of your own personal aspirations and visions for the future? What projects would you like to drive forward?

Sarah Gardner: I have pursued the career I have because I am passionate about making a positive difference. I’ve stayed at the Commission longer than anywhere else I’ve worked because the opportunities to do that are enormous. In fact, I’m a firm believer that each and every one of us who works in gambling has opportunities to make a huge difference through the choices we make every day.

The things I am particularly focused on at the moment are first and foremost about industry compliance. It’s far too low in some areas where it can’t be if we are going to keep gambling fair and safe. I’m also focused on how we can seize the opportunities afforded by better use of data and technology.

For example, cashless wallet apps, such as the Game Payment Technology app which Bacta has co-developed. Developments like these can provide the opportunity to improve the consumer experience as well as providing them with better tools to manage their gambling such as the ability to set limits or track their machine spend over time.

Coinslot: In which ways would you like the landscape to have changed for women in business when we revisit the subject this time next year?

Sarah Gardner: Like a lot of difficult problems we face in business, gender equality, diversity and inclusion is something which has changed for the better, but there needs to be a process of maturity for it to properly embed into the fabric of our businesses. So-called ‘glass ceilings’ are an example of this, I think. Sometimes you see leaders who say they’ve had a good look at gender diversity in their businesses and it’s all ok because something around 50 percent of their employees identify as a woman. I always ask for that figure to be broken down across different dimensions. Almost always, that produces reasons to be less complacent on this front.

For example, where are the women in your business? Are they concentrated in particular teams or in particular types of role? Is there a level or grade in your organisation where that 50 percent figure is much greater and, conversely, where it starts to reduce? What are women in the organisation telling you about what it is like to work here and their aspirations? At that point, good leaders will start to ask themselves why those things are happening and what can be done to change that picture.

I’d like to see more of that sort of curiosity from leaders to dig more into what life is like for women in business because that’s how these things will get changed and we’ll get that maturity over the longer term.

Oh, and it would be nice to go for a whole year without a meeting involving, say, more than 4 people, where I am the only woman in the room!

 

Irina Ruf

Irina Ruf: The key to progress for side of the industry is an “extensive support network of both men and women”

Q&A

Irina Ruf, Executive Operations Director International for Merkur Casino, welcomed the forward steps the industry has taken towards increasing gender diversity in management, but her hopes are focused on progress speeding up.

 

Coinslot: The world marked International Women’s Day last month drawing attention to the role of women in business. Would you say we are making progress towards a level playing field for women when it comes to opportunities in business?

Irina Ruf Merkur Casino women in business feature
Irina Ruf, Executive Operations Director International, Merkur Casino

Irina Ruf: I am in a slightly privileged position in so far as I work across a number of different territories and jurisdictions. Overall, I think in the land-based business side of the industry that progress is slow and incremental.

The steps that have been taken are small but continuous. There are more women being promoted to Director level positions but the frustration for anyone who is passionate about this issue is that progress is so slow. I have to say there is still significant room for improvement.

Coinslot: What would you highlight as some of the key advances made to bring more women into leading roles and where does the industry have to do better?

Irina Ruf: Unfortunately, my focus is going to be on the second part of the question. The industry has to do better across a range of issues and challenges at the same time as recognising that there are many advantages of having women in senior positions.

Women are very good at emotional leadership which means that it’s not just about achieving business or organisational goals but at the same time taking good care of their people, making efforts to understand them as people and providing them a working environment which fits best to the needs. This way it is a winwin situation.

The Gaming industry must become more aware of these advantages: a good leader leads to having good teams which in turn means better overall results.

“There will be no drastic changes or changes coming overnight but small steady improvements will make the difference….”

Coinslot: How have you overcome the challenges encountered in your own career path and what lessons have you learned en route?

Irina Ruf: You have to have a sharp focus which means staying focused on my goals and developing my own management/leadership style.

I believe that empathy is also important.In my job it’s vital to understand different cultures and also have a good sense of humour to deal with the pressures and challenges of everyday work situations.

Coinslot: What key experiences would you pass on to other women in the industry and what advice would you offer?

Irina Ruf: It’s essential to establish a good and extensive support network of both men and women.Having people around you who share the same passion and goals helps you learn and grow through the good times and the not so good times.

Coinslot: Looking ahead, can you give us an idea of your own personal aspirations and visions for the future?

Irina Ruf: I remain focused on achieving my personal goals no matter what obstacles are put in front of me.The most powerful and insightful lessons come out of negative experiences and I know that they are the ones that in the end will make me a stronger person.

Coinslot: Finally, how would you like the landscape to have changed for women in business when we revisit the subject this time next year?

Irina Ruf: There will be no drastic changes or changes coming overnight but small steady improvements will make the difference (hopefully!)

 

Anne Ackord

Anne Ackord: “It shouldn’t have to be a binary choice between a career and a family”

 

Brighton Pier Group CEO Anne Ackord argues businesses need to recognise the benefits of female employees having a family and that allowing for flexible working patterns rather than trying “to make one size fit all” could boost returns.

 

Brighton Pier Group CEO Anne Ackord contends that women should not be forced to make a binary choice between a career and a family and argues that businesses could still do more to support female employees in this area.

Anne Ackord Women in Business feature
Anne Ackord CEO, Brighton Pier Group

“I believe that we have moved way past the times when women were only looked at for lower level positions because they were regarded as having outside responsibilities – family mainly – that would halt their progression to higher grade roles,” she stated.

Ackord believes that the family environment offers an important training ground to develop transferable skills.

“If you can organise, plan, nurture a growing family I’m sure you can transfer these skills into a business setting,” she observed. “Having a family is a part of a career plan, a phase where amongst a thousand other things you develop and refine various skills that will help you in the future.

“Both the amusements and the wider hospitality industries need to recognise the value of flexible working patterns and “not try to make one size fit all”, Ackord argues. “Flexible shift patterns [and] more help with childcare are needed to help women progress. As employers we need to make returning to work after however many years easier,” she added.

Meanwhile, Ackord emphasises that education is essential to help inspire future generations of women to set their sights on working at a senior level. “We need to play a part in our education system by helping to present our industry in a positive light, as a space where you can grow and develop a career to a very senior level,” she explained.

“We need to be involved with local colleges, we need to provide first class training and work hard to present all the many positive aspects of a career with us.”

 

Q&A

Anne Ackord suggests that “education is key for the future generations of women who want to work and work at a senior level” and contends that it’s important for the hospitality and leisure industry to play its part by helping present the sector in a positive light.

 

Coinslot: How much progress has the UK made towards creating a more level playing field for women in business?

Anne Ackord: In the UK we are making progress but when you look at the international element of International Women’s Day then there are some stark examples of retrograde steps (Afghanistan for example). A strong supportive network helps to further the progress that women are making in business and lessons on how women are coping and adapting can be learnt from examples across the world.

Coinslot: From your perspective, what have been some of the key advances which have opened the door for an increasing number of women to move into leading roles and what more remains to be done?

Anne Ackord: I believe that we have moved way past the times when women were only looked at for lower level positions because they were regarded as having outside responsibilities (family mainly) that would halt their progression to higher grade roles. Hence employers didn’t think female employees were worth the investment.

So whilst the presence of women is more common in senior roles it is still not equivalent to men.

I firmly believe that employers need to recognise that the skills parents bring to the workplace are to be as equally valued as formal industry qualifications.

If you can organise, plan, nurture a growing family I’m sure you can transfer these skills into a business setting (plus if you can survive on little sleep whilst the kids are babies, a few late night shifts in a hospitality environment will probably be a blessing in comparison!)

Industry needs to recognise these skills which are still predominantly skills gained by the female in the family and see how they can be transferred to the working environment.

Flexible shift patterns and more help with childcare are needed to help women progress. Education is key to the future generations of women who want to work and work at a senior level.

We also need to play a part in our education system by helping to present our industry in a positive light, as a space where you can grow and develop a career to a very senior level. We need to be involved with local colleges, we need to provide first class training and work hard to present all the many positive aspects of a career with us.

Too often we allow ourselves to be classified as unskilled and present a poor image of what it is like in our industry.

Coinslot: What has been one of the key lessons you’ve learned during your career?

Anne Ackord: I was very fortunate to have family support when I started my career and without that it would have been harder, but I was determined, willing to work hard and convince my employers to support me.

If I have learnt one lesson en route it is have confidence in yourself and don’t be afraid of asking for help to reach a goal.

Coinslot: What piece of advice would you give to those just embarking on their own careers?

Anne Ackord: Decide what you want to do, have goals, seek mentors, don’t take no for an answer.

It’s a common saying that ‘you can’t have it all’ , generally inferring that it’s a choice between family and career. Having a family is a part of a career plan, a phase where amongst a thousand other things you develop and refine various skills that will help you in the future.

As employers we need to make returning to work after however many years easier, and we need to actively seek out these skills when looking at our team make-up.

Coinslot: What changes would you like to see before International Women’s Day next year?

Anne Ackord: Year on year progress please. I want to see the day when a career in hospitality/leisure is a valued choice.

I want to see the skills within our industry recognised as exactly that – SKILLS. Our’s are not jobs that we do because we can’t find a better job. Being a great waiter/chef/arcade engineer/ catering manager etc. requires dedication and the willingness to learn, and we as an industry should do our utmost to ensure our skills are valued.

We need to recognise the value of flexible working patterns and not try to make one size fit all.

 

Emma McClarkin

Pouring with diversity: Pub and brewing sector attracting more women than ever before

As a former government relations executive to the Rugby Football Union, a former Conservative MEP, and the current CEO of the British Beer and Pub Association, Emma McClarkin knows a thing or two about what it’s like to work in what have traditionally been male dominated industries. For the pub and brewing sectors, however, this has been changing, with more and more businesses seeing the benefits of having a diverse team from top to bottom.

 

The brewing sector currently has more female apprentices than ever before, following in the footsteps of a pub sector that now has 54 percent representation of women.

Emma McClarkin BBPA Women in Business Feature
Emma McClarkin CEO BBPA

Following International Women’s Day, CEO of the British Beer and Pub Association Emma McClarkin spoke to Coinslot about the great strides the pub and brewing sectors have made in recent years, with progress being made every day with the constant improvement of recruitment and communication practices that ensure diversity flourishes.

“In the Pub Sector we are proud that we have 54 percent representation of women. Brewing on the other hand is still more male dominated, however we have more female apprentices today than at any other time,” explained McClarkin. “As an industry we are certainly looking at our recruitment practices, how we are communicating, the language that we use and trying to find ways to ensure that we have really diverse teams that we know delivers real results and allows our businesses to truly reflect the communities they are at the heart of. We also have to consider work-life balance and new flexible ways of working to ensure we attract the best talent.”

McClarkin explained that there are more opportunities than ever before for women that want to enter the hospitality industry, highlighting her own journey into the sector, how welcome she has felt, and how she wants to ensure this is the experience of every person entering the industry.

“I take it as a personal priority to ensure that we are focussing on making our teams more diverse and inclusive as a sector and changing perceptions to ensure we are seen as a forward-looking modern industry,” she added.

McClarkin also acknowledged that the industry still has a somewhat outdated perception to change, which in itself – even without any substance to it – can prevent women from wanting to join in. She’s looking forward to getting back to work on these important issues now that the industry is finally out of crisis mode.

“With the recovery well underway and crisis management swept aside, I hope that we can all begin to focus on our strategy for the future, making sure we’re hitting the milestones on that journey be it in on Diversity, sustainability, ESG or just continuing to deliver quality and growth,” she concluded.

Emma McClarkin: Changing outdated perceptions of an increasingly inclusive industry

Q&A

While the pub sector has changed in practice, becoming a place that welcomes people of all gender, race and sexual orientation, many still perceive it to be a bit of a boys club. Emma McClarkin is out to change these outdated perceptions, armed with both her own anecdotes and statistics that show progress has been made and new milestones are set to be hit.

 

Coinslot: The world marked International Women’s Day last month drawing attention once again to the role of women in business. In what are very disruptive and challenging times, would you say we are making progress towards a level playing field for women when it comes to opportunities in business?

Emma McClarkin, CEO of the BBPA: There are more opportunities now than ever before, but we all have a responsibility to ensure that we are creating pathways to allow – not just women but everyone – access to those opportunities and particularly at board level.

Coinslot: What would you highlight as some of the key advances made to bring more women into leading roles and where does the industry have to do better?

Emma McClarkin: In the pub sector we are proud that we have 54 percent representation of women. Brewing on the other hand is still more male dominated, however we have more female apprentices today than at any other time.

As an industry we are certainly looking at our recruitment practices, how we are communicating, the language that we use and trying to find ways to make ensure that we have a really diverse teams that we know delivers real results and allows our businesses to truly reflect the communities they are at the heart of.

We also have to consider work-life balance and new flexible ways of working to ensure we attract the best talent.

Coinslot: You have worked in the industry for many years and you’ve seen an increasing number of women taking senior roles, particularly in trade exhibitions, trade associations and many business operations of all sizes. From a more personal perspective, how have you met and overcome the challenges encountered in your own career path and what lessons have you learned en route?

Emma McClarkin: Having worked in rugby and in politics I’m used to working in male dominated environments. However, I never really saw it as a specific challenge, but we do need to make sure that the equal opportunity is there to get ahead.

Every individual still must be determined, positive, proactive and hard working at the end of the day, but they need to be given a level playing field and the same ladders to climb to the top.

A relative newbie to hospitality having worked in it for the last two and a half years, I am really impressed with the way that the sector is focusing on its people and creating long rewarding careers for all its employees, including women. I take it as a personal priority to ensure that we are focussing on making our teams more diverse and inclusive as a sector and changing perceptions to ensure we are seen as a forward-looking modern industry.

Coinslot: International Women’s Day is all about female trailblazers sharing their experiences with other women. What key experiences would you pass on and what advice would you offer younger women to help develop their careers today?

Emma McClarkin: I have been mentored and guided by both men and women throughout my career so I would encourage anyone to approach someone that they admire and that has experience to share to help them with their career and help them map out that path to the top.

And it’s a responsibility on those women who are leaders that they reach back and lift up the next generation.

Coinslot: Looking ahead, can you give us an idea of your own personal aspirations and visions for the future? What projects would you like to drive forward?

Emma McClarkin: I am lucky in that I work in an industry I am genuinely passionate about and I’m really enjoying my challenge here at the British Beer and Pub association.

I’m someone that’s always looking for personal growth and in this role, I get to work with incredible people with so much experience so I feel I’m still learning and growing every day.

Also I’m a non-executive director for several organisations that stretch my experience and allows me to contribute in a positive way in other areas I’m passionate about too.

As for the future I’d like to see the industry into a strong and sustainable recovery, changing the perception of the industry and making sure that we are seen as a modern forward-looking sector and one that’s fully diverse and inclusive.

Coinslot: Finally, how would you like the landscape to have changed for women in business when we revisit the subject this time next year?

Emma McClarkin: With the recovery well underway and crisis management swept aside, I hope that we can all begin to focus on our strategy for the future. Making sure we’re hitting the milestones on that journey be it in on Diversity, sustainability, ESG or just continuing to deliver quality and growth.

 

Nicola Wallbank

The industry has a chance to look at reducing barriers to entry for both women and young people in general

 

Nicola Wallbank, head of corporate accounts at Blueprint Operations, suggests the industry needs to take steps to increase its attractiveness as a career while ensuring talent can rise to the top. As part of this, she does see the industry gently nudging away from the old-style male dominated sector and encouraging more women to pursue a career in land-based gaming. “Much improved” is her assessment, and her hopes are for a shift in gear towards change.

 

Nicola Wallbank, head of corporate accounts at Blueprint Operations, reports that gender diversity in the landbased industry has “much improved” in recent years.

“When I first joined the industry … it was a rarity to see a woman in a senior leadership position,” she stated.

But things are changing, albeit gradually.

Wallbank, though, is a realist. At this moment, she contends: “I think Blueprint Operations and Merkur UK in general are both ahead of the field in terms of gender representation,” she noted. But that’s not necessarily replicated across the industry. “We cannot kid ourselves that land-based gaming is pushing new boundaries, particularly when compared with the situation in the online space where there is a far greater representation of senior women.”

But she is seeing a shift towards encouraging women to pursue a career in landbased gaming, in favour of an industry “that’s more fulfilling and representative”.

Not least in her own organisation which has been a pioneer in the drive for gender equality. “We have a culture of continuous improvement and a commitment to examine ways in which we can improve,” she noted proudly.

But for Wallbank, it’s a broader issue, too. She suggests the industry could benefit not only from change in terms of gender representation, but also from broadening its appeal as a career with a younger demographic in general.

As part of this, she proposes reducing barriers to entry and ensuring the landbased industry can offer a career for people who do not have a degree.

“I would like to spread the discussion out and not just talk about women but young people as well. The industry has to continue to do better bringing through a younger demographic with fresh and interesting perspectives,” she continued. “Many people I come across in the industry have started at the bottom and worked their way up and we need to continue to make those opportunities available. Previous experience or degree qualifications aren’t always necessary.”

Given that the industry is facing issues which are “long-standing and entrenched”, Wallbank emphasises that it is important to be “realistic” and stresses the value of “incremental changes”

“If in 12-months there are more females in the industry in senior positions as well as more younger women following a career in the industry that will be a success,” she observed.

“I think we are looking at incremental changes and if in 12-months there are more females in the industry in senior positions as well as more younger women following a career in the industry that will be a success…”

Q&A

Coinslot: The world marked International Women’s Day last month drawing attention to the role of women in business. Would you say we are making progress towards a level playing field for women when it comes to opportunities in business?

Nicola Wallbank: On the positive side the situation is much improved compared to when I first joined the industry and it was a rarity to see a woman in a senior leadership position.

I think Blueprint Operations and Merkur UK in general are both ahead of the field in terms of gender representation, but we cannot kid ourselves that land-based gaming is pushing new boundaries, particularly when compared with the situation in the online space where there is a far greater representation of senior women.

Having a male dominated sector becomes self-fulfilling as the majority of women will be deterred from pursuing a career in land-based gaming and instead opt for something that’s more fulfilling and representative.

We have to assume that because of the gender imbalance that exists the industry has potentially lost a lot of talented women who have been discouraged from being a part of it. That’s not only a great shame but it’s also bad for business.

Coinslot: What would you highlight as some of the key advances made to bring more women into leading roles and where does the industry have to do better?

Nicola Wallbank: I would like to spread the discussion out and not just talk about women but young people as well. The industry has to continue to do better bringing through a younger demographic with fresh and interesting perspectives.

Many people I come across in the industry have started at the bottom and worked their way up and we need to continue to make those opportunities available. Previous experience or degree qualifications aren’t always necessary. Whilst I have a degree and have always worked in the industry, I strongly feel that my work ethic and passion for the job have helped me more than anything else.

Coinslot: How have you overcome the challenges encountered in your own career path and what lessons have you learned en route?

Nicola Wallbank: It sounds a bit basic but I think you have to be really thick-skinned. You have to ensure that you don’t take criticism personally and continue to put yourself out there.

Don’t be afraid of starting that conversation. I now accept that at an event or conference I’ll be the only or one of very few females in attendance and I cannot let that bother me. You have to be tough and resilient in that respect.

Coinslot: What key experiences would you pass on to other women in the industry and what advice would you offer?

Nicola Wallbank: Work hard, and speak up. If you feel you are unpaid or undervalued compared to your male colleagues, ask for what you deserve, talk to someone. Don’t just accept it. For years I just accepted it and it really annoyed me, when I look back and realise that I should have just spoken up.

Coinslot: Looking ahead, can you give us an idea of your own personal aspirations and visions for the future?

Nicola Wallbank: At Blueprint we have a culture of continuous improvement and a commitment to examine ways in which we can improve and offer a better service to our customers. If you deliver on that philosophy, it’s inevitable that will impact on your individual performance and that of the team.

I like to think I have got to where I am because of that hard work and that’s something that I will always uphold.

I have been at Blueprint for over six years now and I am still as ambitious as I was when I joined the team. What role I do in the future I don’t know but I enjoy working within the business and with our customers.

Coinslot: Finally, how would you like the landscape to have changed for women in business when we revisit the subject this time next year?

Nicola Wallbank: We have to be realistic and acknowledge that some of the issues that we have to address are long-standing and entrenched.

I think we are looking at incremental changes and if in 12-months there are more females in the industry in senior positions as well as more younger women following a career in the industry that will be a success.

 

Pauline Bass

Gender diversity and a female mentoring programme is a major driving force for change, says Bass

 

As part of its commitment to offering a ‘Bar to Boardroom’ career pathway to all employees, Stonegate Group has seen success with its female mentoring programme. Pauline Bass, the company’s director of gaming, tells us more.

 

Pauline Bass, director of gaming at Stonegate Group, suggests that nationwide, “every business has a way to go in ensuring a level playing field”. “That said, I am encouraged by what I see at Stonegate, with more women than ever in operational area manager roles, as well as senior roles, together helping to lead our business into the future,” she said.

Pauline Bass Director of Gaming Stonegate Group Women in business feature
Pauline Bass Director of Gaming, Stonegate Group

Bass highlights that Stonegate Group has been successful in addressing the issue in recent years following the introduction of its female mentoring programme.

“Several years ago our company started to look at the male/female split in job roles, and we found several areas where there appeared be to less female progression,” she explained. “We commenced a programme whereby at any one time some 30+ high performing females from our sites or within head office are able to benefit from having a mentor within the business. Typically, all our mentors are members of our main board or from our key leadership team.

Pauline Bass: “I think every business has a way to go in ensuring a level playing field. That said, I am encouraged by what I see at Stonegate…”

“The introduction of the female mentoring scheme reinforces our commitment to offer the ‘Bar to Boardroom’ career pathway to all employees, ensuring females within the business are equipped with the confidence, knowledge and support they need to progress and be the best they can be,” Bass continued.

Alongside mentoring, Bass highlights the importance of building up a support network in the workplace. “I have always been lucky to surround myself with a key network of colleagues that inevitably become my sounding board,” she stated. “If I look back, I can clearly pick out 3-line managers who fundamentally shaped my career for the better and led me to where I am now. It is important we recognise who these people are and what we can learn from them.”

 

Q&A

Coinslot: In what are very disruptive and challenging times, would you say we are making progress towards a level playing field for women when it comes to opportunities in business?

Pauline Bass: I can only speak from my own experience working for the Stonegate Group, however, I feel inroads were made into ensuring this topic was front and centre to our values long before the pandemic.

As a business, we are always looking to understand the practical and cultural barriers that might hold a woman back, and to critically identify any gaps in training or personal development that might need addressing.

I think every business has a way to go in ensuring a level playing field. That said, I am encouraged by what I see at Stonegate, with more women than ever in operational area manager roles, as well as senior roles, together helping to lead our business into the future.

Coinslot: What would you highlight as some of the key advances made to bring more women into leading roles and where does the industry have to do better?

Pauline Bass: One of the successes we have had within the Stonegate Group is the introduction of our female mentoring programme.

Several years ago our company started to look at the male/female split in job roles, and we found several areas where there appeared to less female progression.

We commenced a programme whereby at any one time some 30+ high performing females from our sites or within head office are able to benefit from having a mentor within the business.

Typically, all our mentors are members of our main board or from our key leadership team.

The introduction of the female mentoring scheme reinforces our commitment to offer the ‘Bar to Boardroom’ career pathway to all employees, ensuring females within the business are equipped with the confidence, knowledge and support they need to progress and be the best they can be.

Coinslot: You have worked in the industry for many years and you’ve seen an increasing number of women taking senior roles, particularly in trade exhibitions, trade associations and many business operations of all sizes. From a more personal perspective, how have you met and overcome the challenges encountered in your own career path and what lessons have you learned en route?

Pauline Bass: Every day is a chance for me to grow and learn from new challenges that arise.

I have always been lucky to surround myself with a key network of colleagues that inevitably become my sounding board. I think it is important that we build a support network in this way, as these people usually become invaluable to our career path.

If I look back, I can clearly pick out 3- line managers who fundamentally shaped my career for the better and led me to where I am now. It is important we recognise who these people are and what we can learn from them.

Coinslot: International Women’s Day is all about female trailblazers sharing their experiences with other women. What key experiences would you pass on and what advice would you offer younger women to help develop their careers today?

Pauline Bass: A positive work ethic (as clichéd as it sounds!).

From a young age I watched my parents grow in their careers, instilling a great sense of pride in what they did, and they very much passed this sentiment onto me.

I got my first part time job at the age of 15, and even then, as a job at a local cinema, I wanted to succeed, ensuring I could be the best I could possibly be.

Fast forward 25 years and that strong work ethic still remains. My every day driving force is a sense of belonging to a company and wanting to succeed for them. Indeed, you must love what you do! I am lucky to have loved every job I have ever had, and whilst there are good and bad days, if you ever wake up in the morning and dread going to work then that’s probably the time to change career.

Coinslot: Looking ahead, can you give us an idea of your own personal aspirations and visions for the future? What projects would you like to drive forward?

Pauline Bass: Hospitality has had a challenging two years, and as I look ahead, I know we need to focus on rebuilding the industry and getting back to putting our customers at the forefront of our minds.

Consumer habits have undoubtedly changed now, and as an industry we need to evolve and give people a reason to leave Netflix and the sofa behind.

We have lots of exciting plans on the horizon within the Stonegate Group so watch this space on how we can continue to push the boundaries and earn our place as the UKs biggest and best pub company.

Coinslot: Finally, how would you like the landscape to have changed for women in business when we revisit the subject this time next year?

Pauline Bass: We need to continue as we are and celebrate the successes and achievements of women in our industry.

This goes a long way in demonstrating to those early in their careers that anything is possible.

Society is evolving, and I would like to think in years to come we will not need to specifically focus on the subject of women in business, because we will naturally come to embrace opportunities for all.

 

Michelle Michael

“One of the friendliest sectors”: Michelle Michael reflects on hospitality as a long-term career path

 

Michelle Michael, joint owner of the Grand Pier in Weston, is one of the industry luminaries and a driving force of innovation. Here she talks about encouraging young women to seek joy in their employment and to consider hospitality as a long-term career.

 

Leading attractions operator Michaelle Michael has praised the hospitality industry for “celebrating and encouraging” the accomplishments of its female workforce in an interview marking International Womens’ Day.

Michelle Michael Grand Pier Weston Women in Business feature
Michelle Michael Owner, Grand Pier

Speaking to Coinslot, the co-owner and director of Weston’s Grand Pier stated the sector is “one of the friendliest,” and encouraged young women to follow her footsteps in prioritising the pursuit of career satisfaction.

“Hospitality is one of the friendliest sectors that I have worked in, where women and their accomplishments are celebrated and encouraged, where growth and development is available to all, and where working environments are fun, rewarding and satisfying,” said Michael.

“I can honestly say in the last 14 years in the sector, I have never come across any adversity because of gender inequality.”

Though noting that the last two years have given rise to “many challenges” across the hospitality sector, Michael acknowledged the joy the industry still brings, and encouraged young women looking for employment to seek jobs that brought similar satisfaction.

“I think that in today’s landscape, the advice that I would offer young women is not to think of any gender issues when deciding on their next career move, what studies to follow, and what their chosen path should be.”

“Instead focus on something to do that really makes them happy, because with that comes the drive and determination to give it your single focus. Once that happens, success will follow.”

That focus on excelling in the workplace comes as Michael continues her call for the hospitality and attractions industry to build on its reputation as a long term career option, urging the Government to better support the industry, and in turn increase employment.

“I think that our sector has a really important role to play in driving standards and experiences forward, so that we become an industry that is taken seriously as a career path and where people feel that they can progress in a serious environment and excel in what they do.”

“Many times in my journey, I have found that people downplay the importance of our sector, and I believe that Government should go back to having a tourism minister to ensure that this valuable GDP to the economy is preserved, nurtured and increased.”

 

Imogen Moss

“We need to think about gender diversity more than once a year”

 

As a female working in the gambling industry, it was encouraging to see so many leading operators get involved in the BreaktheBias campaign for this year’s International Women’s Day.

Imogen Moss Women in Business feature
Imogen Moss

In recent years, we’ve certainly seen some good examples of women overcoming bias and taking on leading positions in the UK’s gambling industry. We’ve had female CEOs at the Gambling Commission, Brigid Simmonds is the current chair of the Betting and Gaming Council and Jette Nygaard-Andersen was appointed CEO of Entain last year.

As well as these high-profile examples, in my own work I’ve noticed there are a lot more women generally moving up the ranks in the gambling industry. I have been really lucky throughout my career to work with many women in senior positions, but when it comes to gambling clients, I am now working with more senior females than ever before.

However, while things are certainly moving in the right direction, there is still a lot more work to do in this area.

It’s clear there is still a lack of gender equality at senior and board level in the gambling industry, although this is also true of many other industries.

There is a vicious circle that seems hard to break – the lack of representation at the highest levels means it is difficult for women in the early stages of their career to imagine themselves advancing to the top. To counter this, we need initiatives that help future generations of women feel comfortable moving to the next rung of the ladder.

Workplaces also need to be more inclusive. I have my own experiences of juggling being a mum and having a career and I know that these competing priorities can be tough to manage.

Despite all the progress society has made, it still seems more challenging for women to achieve the right work-life balance than it does for men. Surveys consistently show that women take on more of the childcare and housework than men.

In addition, in the UK childcare costs are prohibitive and often leave women paying a huge portion of their salary to nurseries, with some even working for nothing more than keeping their career ticking over.

We saw at the beginning of the pandemic that the added burden of having to take on full-time childcare while schools and nurseries were closed pushed many women out of the workforce entirely.

The childcare issue is something the government and companies need to take action on if they really want to advance towards true gender equality in the workplace.

However, the one good thing to come out of the pandemic was the huge shift in companies’ attitudes towards home working.

Working from home could afford more opportunities to women because it could help them achieve a better work-life balance.

The big challenge here could be that remote working might make it harder for women to access mentoring opportunities, so that’s something businesses need to be conscious of going forward.

Mentoring has been incredibly helpful in my career and the same is true for many other women; we need to make sure this doesn’t fall by the wayside because people are physically more spread out.

Companies also need to make sure they don’t forget about their female employees if they see them around the office less – a number of experts warned last year that there was a risk of women becoming less visible to employers because they were more likely to be working from home than men.

The same applies to International Women’s Day. Businesses should not just be thinking about gender diversity on the one day of the year the issue is most visible; it should be part of their culture.

In recent years, we’ve seen an increasing trend for companies to want to be more environmentally friendly and to have a preference for working with other companies with similar ethics.

We’re moving in the same direction with gender diversity, but there are certainly steps we could take to get there faster.

 

Diana Theodoridi

Q&A

 

Coinslot: Would you say we are making progress towards a level playing field for women when it comes to opportunities in business?

Diana Theodoridi, marketing director at OKTO: Women have made strides across diverse areas, including business, banking, finance, the communications sector and skills training: making many great achievements in the process.

Diana Theodoridi OKTO Women in Business Feature
Diana Theodoridi Marketing Director, OKTO

As a woman, and mother with a 16-year career working in local retail stores during university, to marketing in the gaming industry, and now leading the marketing team on the payments side, my experience has taught me that if companies address culture as a priority in their business, progress will be accelerated.

Encouraging women to lean in and raise their hands higher can also help and should be part of the companies’ corporate strategy. I’m experiencing this culture at OKTO and I’m really glad to see how the company empowers not only women but also minorities across all management levels, highlighting our constant progress and driving accountability.

Employees of each business reflect the world in which we live and at OKTO there is a diverse and Inclusive environment to leverage the talent, insights and ideals of all OKTO employees, regardless of gender.

Coinslot: What would you highlight as some of the key advances made to bring more women into leading roles and where does the industry have to do better?

Diana Theodoridi: The changes that we can observe in the culture of many organisations have the biggest impact and play a key role.

An increasing number of companies are committing to gender equality with men becoming advocates for women and rejecting the gender stereotypes which were all too common.

And, of course, today women’s individual experiences and perspectives are powerful factors, too. We can see that more and more women in senior positions are pushing the boundaries of gender equality by utilising their strengths and leadership qualities – in skill, knowledge, experience, but also emotional intelligence.

It is essential that we continue the progress and create a pledge to advance more women to all levels of leadership. Organisations in the industry should have an even broader, ‘whole systems’ view to support, retain, and develop female leaders.

There are areas for focused improvement, such as getting more women into the C-suite and boards of directors, mentoring and sponsorship programs, and talent management policies and processes. We also need to rethink systems and challenge assumptions.

Coinslot: What lessons have you learned during your career so far? What key experiences would you pass on to other women in the industry and what advice would you offer?

Diana Theodoridi: As a woman in gaming and now in fintech, I have had to forge my own path to success in what are male-dominated sectors.

Tech as a whole but also gaming and fintech needs more women – gender diversity brings in new voices and fresh perspectives and has even been shown to boost companies’ financial performance.

The industry is slowly changing and becoming more inclusive, and with it comes new opportunities and challenges for women.

The challenges that were in place were always multi-dimensional; but the most difficult is the barriers that we, ourselves often construct on our road to success.

For example, it takes time to separate hard work from right work. I used to get bogged down in 100 pounds of information when I just need only five to successfully complete any campaign and plan.

Even at the outset of professional careers, we must work strategically, not just diligently.

In addition, too often, we’ve seen that women wait to be noticed, wait to be asked and wait to be invited to the table. Here sits the importance of confidence.

What I realised is that the greatest risk lies in not stepping up and the fact that perfection is not an option. Instead, we must embrace an outward approach, working collaboratively to achieve corporate goals.

Coinslot: Looking ahead, can you give us an idea of your own personal aspirations and visions for the future?

Diana Theodoridi: Following the pandemic, and while I value my introverted nature, I intend to experience more human connections both in my work life and personal.

I now fully recognise the value of stretching myself and interacting with more people. My vision and aspirations are to maintain my career path, live a balanced life, and apply ethical principles in order to make a significant difference. I aim to combine these with the academic, physical, and spiritual aspects of my life so that I can maintain a sense of well-being and self-esteem.

Coinslot: Finally, how would you like the landscape to have changed for women in business when we revisit the subject this time next year?

Diana Theodoridi: It will be interesting to see if there are more women occupying leading positions within organisations but also more self-employed women, joining the entrepreneurship and innovation ecosystem.

We know that diversity and inclusion issues do not exist in a vacuum; they are connected to and impacted by a variety of factors, but to increase opportunities for women entrepreneurs, an integrated strategy needs to be grounded in evidence, an understanding of the system and the levers to drive change.

 

Nadia Volosina

Nadia Volosina welcomes ‘new and fresh perspectives’ from broader diversity

Q&A

In honour of International Women’s Day, Coinslot spoke to head of operations at Blueprint Operations Nadia Volosina about the specific challenges facing female leaders in the industry, and what can be done to help further diversity across senior management.

 

Coinslot: The world marked International Women’s Day last month drawing attention to the role of women in business. Would you say we are making progress towards a level playing field for women when it comes to opportunities in business?

Nadia Volosina: I think business has become much more open minded in recent years.

Taking just a cursory view, you see more women in the industry, which is a positive change, although there are still not enough women in leadership roles.

Nadia Volosina Blueprint Operations Women in Business feature
Nadia Volosina Head of Operations, Blueprint Operations

I would say that over 90 percent of my contacts are men and operations has always been seen as a male dominated part of the business. However, women are resilient, can organise things efficiently, they are problem solvers and possess exceptional attention to detail – all of which are crucial attributes, but perhaps not always recognised as such.

Coinslot: What would you highlight as some of the key advances made to bring more women into leading roles and where does the industry have to do better?

Nadia Volosina: I think it’s a topic that’s talked about a lot more than in the past when it was simply accepted. Awareness is the first stage in effecting positive change.

There are also some really good role models both within and outside the industry that employers can use as a template and serve as an example of what can be achieved when there’s a diversity of voices.

Coinslot: How have you overcome the challenges encountered in your own career path and what lessons have you learned en route?

Nadia Volosina: When I started in the industry nearly a decade ago, I felt that I needed to work ten times harder than my male colleagues in order to prove that I could do the job as well as them if not better.

I learned how to adapt, to communicate effectively and in a way that helped me to gain respect.

I have never and will never come to a meeting unprepared; I am always armed with the relevant facts and information – the colleagues and customers that I work with know that’s the case.

And if I don’t have an immediate answer or solution – they are safe and secure in the knowledge that I will quickly provide a workable solution.

But I have to say that having such a reputation takes time to build.

Coinslot: What key experiences would you pass on to other women in the industry and what advice would you offer?

Nadia Volosina: Be strong and believe in yourself! Always be open to learn more and explore new aspects of the industry/business, be curious and confident in your own skills and abilities.

Coinslot: Looking ahead, can you give us an idea of your own personal aspirations and visions for the future?

Nadia Volosina: I am passionate about business planning and strategy – my view is if your company is growing make sure that you are growing with it.

I intend to introduce and implement new ideas and projects which will help the business grow and become more successful in the process helping me to develop new skills.

It’s incredibly rewarding to help develop the personalities in my team and witness how they can become stronger and more knowledgeable.

On a personal level it has always been my aspiration to be independent, which means that you can make your life choices without undue anxiety. This entails being confident in your own abilities, as well as having the knowledge, skills and experience so you can ‘survive’ in any set of circumstances. I feel that I have already achieved that but I’m a strong believer in continuous progression and development.

Coinslot: Finally, how would you like the landscape to have changed for women in business when we revisit the subject this time next year?

Nadia Volosina: It would be fantastic to see more women occupying leadership positions in gaming and to achieve more of a gender balance in the Boardroom.

Women are demonstrating that they can bring a different skill set to senior management roles and with that comes a new and fresh perspective to business.

 

Debbie Hough

Is Coinslot underserving women in the amusements industry?

“Is Coinslot doing enough to support female executives in the amusements industry?” was the tough question posed by Debbie Hough, owner of consultancy Hough and Bollard, who also highlighted the need for more women to take on mentorship roles.

 

Debbie Hough, owner of consultancy Hough and Bollard, contends that “on an average week” Coinslot only features a limited number of stories with “quotes and comments from women in the [amusements] industry”.

Debbie Hough Women in Business Feature
Debbie Hough Owner, Hough and Bollard

While Coinslot’s coverage typically reflects the demographic make-up of the industry, Hough’s constructive criticism raises the question of whether the title could be doing more to support female executives. For a media group that considers itself to be pretty well aligned to the equality cause and with a political leaning that is fixed on driving it forward, it’s an unnerving criticism.

But as men, we can either splutter and shuffle around uncomfortably – or take it on the chin. And she’s right. It is an actual fact that more men are quoted in Coinslot than women. In fairness, the women that are in senior roles – and are either confident enough or senior enough to make their views known are well represented in the paper – as we can see in Coinslot’s feature on Women in Business.

But there are mitigating reasons – an important one being the number of women rising through the senior ranks.

And Hough has honed in on this obstacle very quickly.

Looking beyond the gaming industry, Debbie Hough highlights a recent report which estimated the number of women in senior management roles in the UK would rise from 25 percent in 2017 to 34 percent by 2024.

“It’s an improvement but still a little depressing in a world where women make up 51 percent of the population; clearly some businesses are missing out a vast pool of talent,” she emphasised.

She notes that women who want to progress to senior management positions frequently “feel unsupported”. “Businesses with the foresight to recognise the talent available are now putting in place effective coaching and mentoring strategies to support women’s career paths and seeing the success of these practices with improved business results,” she contended.

Given the importance of mentorship in helping female executives reach their potential, Hough is calling on more women in senior roles to step forward, based on challenges she encountered during her career. “I discovered that excelling was not always enough, and I was particularly annoyed that the female partners neither supported nor mentored other women in the firm, possibly because they were also struggling to get parity,” she observed.

 

Q&A

With the number of women in senior management roles in the UK predicted to increase to 34 percent by 2024, Debbie Hough suggests that further work is needed to achieve gender parity in the gaming industry.

 

Coinslot: From your perspective, how much progress has been made towards achieving gender parity in the workplace?

Debbie Hough: A recent report has documented an increase in the number of women in senior management roles in the UK, rising from 25 percent in 2017 to 32 percent and expected to rise to 34 percent by 2024.

It’s an improvement but still a little depressing in a world where women make up 51 percent of the population; clearly some businesses are missing out on a vast pool of talent. We have had some women in senior roles in our industry for some time including Michelle Michael at Weston-super-Mare Pier, Anne Marling who sold Mulbrook in 2020 and Nicola Wallbank promoted to Blueprint’s head of corporate accounts in 2019.

It was also heartening to read of the recent appointments of Kellie Poundall and Natalia Placezek to senior positions in Merkur UK. However a quick read through Coinslot on an average week is limited in terms of stories with quotes and comments from women in the industry; I do wonder why that is?.

Coinslot: What can the industry do to help facilitate bringing more women into leading roles?

Debbie Hough: Whilst it must obviously be acknowledged that some women simply do not want to progress to a senior management position, there are many who do, but feel unsupported. There is an increasing acceptance from within the business world that diversity is good and that not everyone has to do their job in exactly the same way in order to be successful.

On the whole men and women do have different management styles; expecting women to adopt a masculine management style can backfire because often it is seen as inappropriate behaviour for women!

Businesses with the foresight to recognise the talent available are now putting in place effective coaching and mentoring strategies to support women’s career paths and seeing the success of these practices with improved business results.

Coinslot: Could you tell us more about your career path – what have been some of the challenges you’ve met and overcome through the years?

Debbie Hough: I started my career path in the RAF, where men and women were openly treated differently even down to our medical category which scored us as unfit to carry arms or fly aircraft and resulted in a different pay awards.

Most WRAF’s careers were not taken that seriously, we had to resign on pregnancy grounds and there was only one female “One Star” officer in the force. Many of us worked hard to prove that we were just as capable as the men and by the mid 80’s women could carry arms and received the same pay; by the late 80s women were training to fly and navigate aircraft and by 2019 a woman was promoted to Air Marshal.

When I later became a solicitor I deliberately chose to practice litigation because I wanted the opportunity to prove I was one of the best in my law firm. Unfortunately I discovered that excelling was not always enough, and I was particularly annoyed that the female partners neither supported nor mentored other women in the firm, possibly because they were also struggling to get parity.

I am always reminded of Madeline Allbright who said in 2006 “There is a special place in Hell for women who don’t help other women”.

What I have learned is that in order to succeed you must know your craft, work hard to forge good working relationships, divest yourself of those relationships that are toxic and be true to who you are. I suspect I’m a bit like marmite; not to everyone’s palate; I work best by myself, I’m plain speaking, acknowledge when a mistake is made but will not compromise for second best.

Coinslot: What would be a key piece of advice you’d pass on to women taking the first steps in their careers?

Debbie Hough: I would say to anyone setting out on their career today that if you start out believing that there is a glass ceiling, it will be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Seek out those that have succeeded and talk to them; ask if they will mentor you, pick their brains, and learn from their experiences. And when you have succeeded help others the same way.

Coinslot: Looking ahead, can you give us an idea of your own personal aspirations and visions for the future?

Debbie Hough: That is a really interesting question and has given me an opportunity to reflect on the progress of Hough & Bollard since its creation in 2016.

At the time I had an idea to semi-retire and work part time; I have subsequently helped nearly 300 clients and seen turnover increase fivefold. I have recently taken on a new team member to help with Premises Licence applications so I can focus on Operating Licence applications which I now assist businesses in both the remote and non-remote sector. I enjoy helping my clients and whilst the plan is still to retire eventually, I do not see that happening for a long while yet.

Coinslot: What changes would you like to see ahead of next year’s International Women’s Day?

Debbie Hough: I hope that new more flexible working practices implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic can be adopted so that working women have the opportunities to develop their careers alongside other commitments and that business owners acknowledge the valuable contribution they can make to the success of their business.

Failure to do so means businesses are missing out on some amazing talent and in some cases accepting second best!

It would also be great to see the forecast for women in senior management roles for 2024 already surpassed and getting closer to 50 percent.

 

Dawn Clarke

Dawn Clarke, head of electronic leisure at Mitchell and Butlers, identifies self-belief as an important quality for women entering the workplace and discusses some of the ways business can help support their female employees.

 

While the rising number of women in senior roles is “fantastic”, as a whole the UK still has “a long way to go,” suggested Dawn Clarke, head of electronic leisure at Mitchell and Butlers.

“We need to call on the industry to break the bias and value all genders equally,” she stated, proposing several ways in which a business can move towards “building a balanced talent pipeline”.

Clarke’s proposals include: creating score cards that define the criteria for assessing employees’ performance based on specific goals; giving female colleagues a platform to actively speak, being aware when they are interrupted during meetings and inviting them time to finish giving their valuable input; and taking the time to cheer on female colleagues and give credit where credit is due.

Dawn Clarke: “We still have a long way to go”

Clarke identifies self-belief as a highly important quality for women entering the workplace. “I see more women joining our company through the apprenticeship schemes and graduate schemes and they just don’t know yet how good they really are, and that’s something that is really exciting. But as female colleagues we should work together more and build each other up and instil some of that self-belief,” she contended.

She also emphasises that mentorship is vital for women looking to move their careers to the next level. “My advice would be to find someone who can be your mentor, your coach and your conscience. A mentor to provide guidance, a coach to cheer you on and a conscience to push you when you don’t want to be pushed. That’s invaluable,” Clarke affirmed.

 

Q&A

Dawn Clarke highlights the need to “call on the industry to break the bias and value all genders equally” and explains that the most successful teams have “a genuine balance in diversity of gender, culture, outlook, experience, and background” and “actively empower” female colleagues to succeed.

 

Coinslot: Would you say we are making progress towards a level playing field for women when it comes to opportunities in business?

Dawn Clarke Mitchell and Butlers Women in Business feature
Dawn Clarke Head of Electronic Leisure, Mitchell and Butlers

Dawn Clarke: My experience so far in this industry is that some of the most successful teams I have had the privilege to be involved with are the teams where there is a genuine balance in diversity of gender, culture, outlook, experience, and background. These are the teams that are able to challenge each other, flourish and get the job done.

Coinslot: In your view what have been some of the key advances in terms of bringing women into leadership roles and where could the industry improve?

Dawn Clarke: It is fantastic to see more women in senior roles and occupying significant percentages of board rooms.

But in my view, I think we still have a long way to go. We need to call on the industry to break the bias and value all genders equally.

Just a few ways as leaders to break that bias is to ensure our teams are diverse and inclusive and strategically focus on building a balanced talent pipeline.

Create score cards that define the criteria for assessing employee’s performance and base them on specific goals.

Give females a platform to actively speak and notice when female colleagues are interrupted in meetings and specifically invite them to finish giving their valuable input.

Take time to cheer female colleagues on and give credit where credit is due.

Coinslot: In terms of gender parity, what changes have you seen during your career?

Dawn Clarke: I love to see more females in senior roles. I have been in this industry now for 25 years (since I left school obviously) and I have attended many meetings and events where I have been the only female, but over the last few years, I have definitely witnessed more diversity.

“We need to call on the industry to break the bias”

Coinslot: What has been one of the key lessons you’ve learned across your time in the industry?

Dawn Clarke: When faced with any issue or opportunity, the question I always ask myself is how would the best version of me handle this? It should not matter what gender I am, it is about the ability to lead and inspire a team, flourish and get the job done.

Coinslot: What advice would you offer younger women looking to develop their careers today?

Dawn Clarke: Honestly, I would love to see more women with more self-belief.

I see more women joining our company through the apprenticeship schemes and graduate schemes and they just don’t know yet how good they really are, and that’s something that is really exciting. But as female colleagues we should work together more and build each other up and instil some of that self-belief that is much needed.

My advice would be to find someone who can be your mentor, your coach and your conscience. A mentor to provide guidance, a coach to cheer you on and a conscience to push you when you don’t want to be pushed. That’s invaluable.

Coinslot: Looking forward, could you give us an idea of your own personal aspirations for the future?

Dawn Clarke: I wanted to join an industry that would enable me to develop my career and offer me opportunities.

It has always been my belief that you’re a lucky person if you can do a job that you love and combine it with a passion for the quality of the product and service that you deliver.

It’s a privilege for me to be the leader of the Electronic Leisure department for M&B. This role continues to satisfy my passion for the business. Although very challenging, no two days are the same. One day I find myself working through a tender, another I am an interior designer ensuring our investments have the right machine mix, are in the best locations to suit our guest requirements and the most satisfying part, being in our businesses and supporting the people who run them, no matter what their gender.

For me, this is without a doubt where the real rewards and job satisfaction comes. I never end a day without the feeling that I have achieved something.

I have a mission and that is to ensure I lead a successful team where we continue to delight our guests by partnering with the best suppliers and the best manufacturers. Post pandemic, we are working hard to ensure we give our guests great reasons to visit, ensuring they leave having had great experiences.

Coinslot: How would you like the landscape to have changed for women in business when we come to International Women’s Day next year?

Dawn Clarke: I would like to see this industry being diverse and inclusive and to see all genders being valued equally. Let’s actively empower our female colleagues to succeed in this industry and give them the belief that they can.

 

Helena Rudd

Q&A

The Rudd Group has announced a new maternity and paternity policy to support its workforce, with marketing director Helena Rudd leading the call for equal opportunities.

 

Coinslot: Would you say we are making progress towards a level playing field for women when it comes to opportunities in business?

Helena Rudd: Certainly, there is still a way to go in some instances, but I think in general the awareness of this issue is greater now and with that comes progress towards gender equality.

Helena Rudd The Rudd Group Women in Business feature
Helena Rudd Marketing Director,The Rudd Group

Coinslot: What would you highlight as some of the key advances made to bring more women into leading roles and where does the industry have to do better?

Helena Rudd: Something close to my heart at the moment is maternity leave and opportunities for women who also wish to have families. Since becoming parents it has highlighted to Nick and I that we need to support mothers in business and ensure they are given the same opportunities as their male counterparts, just because they have been on maternity leave shouldn’t set them back in their career.

It has also highlighted the need for us as a business to support those who might be going through a hard time when It comes to fertility – at The Rudd Group we now have a full policy covering this to help both mothers and fathers.

“…avoid gender stereoytpes” warns Helena Rudd

Coinslot: How have you overcome the challenges encountered in your own career path and what lessons have you learned en route?

Helena Rudd: I’ve learnt to never be afraid to voice opinions and ideas, being a woman in what is a fairly traditional industry it can be daunting to put forward your views, but we need to encourage this to ensure we drive the sector forward.

Coinslot: What key experiences would you pass on to other women in the industry and what advice would you offer?

Helena Rudd: Try not to fall into any gender stereotypes, offer to help with tasks that may be seen as male dominant such as service and technical development.

Coinslot: Looking ahead, can you give us an idea of your own personal aspirations and visions for the future?

Helena Rudd: To help grow the brand of The Rudd Group and each of its companies and divisions so when someone takes on a licensed venue, they automatically think to call us for everything from epos (tills) to digital fruit machines. Also, to successfully manage to be a mum and have an exciting and fulfilling career!

Coinslot: Finally, how would you like the landscape to have changed for women in business when we revisit the subject this time next year?

Helena Rudd: I’d really like to see more women in our service department and in technical support roles. As women we are great problem solvers and I think having a proportion of women in these roles would greatly benefit our company.

 

Claire Naylor

Claire Naylor: ‘There is room for women to forge a career within our industry’

Claire Naylor, client services director at Dransfields, suggests a new group for women in the gaming industry would offer both female executives and employees a forum to meet and share ideas.

 

Female executives working in the UK gaming industry suggest that the country is moving in the right direction when it comes to creating a level playing field for women, but there still remains work to do.

Claire Naylor Dransfields Women in Business Feature
Claire Naylor Client Services Director, Dransfields

“As an industry we have made some inroads towards opportunities in business for women,” stated Claire Naylor, client services director at Dransfields.

Yet despite improvements during the past decade, she said that further effort is needed for the industry to achieve gender parity.

“Our industry is traditionally very male dominated, and whilst we are starting to see women in leading roles we really need to promote better from within,” she contended, highlighting that the hospitality and leisure sector includes a number of smaller, family-run firms which may be slower to make changes.

“I think because so many of our independent companies are family run there will still be the male legacy at the top of these companies so it will take some time to turn around,” Naylor acknowledged. “However hopefully more women will choose to take roles within our small businesses as they can now see that there are women in leading roles and that there is room for them to forge a career within our industry.”

Reflecting this and in order to support women in the sector, Naylor has proposed a new social group – Women in Gaming – allowing female executives and employees a forum to meet and share ideas. “At hundreds of meetings I have been the only female present, and this is still the case today in many situations,” she stated, noting that such a group has been previously discussed in the past “but never happened”.

“There is no quick fix as it is grass roots and will take time to build within our traditionally male dominated business,” she stated.

 

Claire Naylor: As an industry we have made some inroads towards opportunities in business for women. For example, I attended a key industry evening event around 10 years ago and there was only myself and one other woman in attendance (apart from our male peers’ partners).

If I were to attend the same event now there would likely be c. eight women from our industry in attendance. Whereas this is not an ideal situation to find ourselves in, it is still a 400 percent improvement

Coinslot: In your view, what have been some of the important steps taken to bring more women into leadership roles and where could the industry do better?

Claire Naylor: The gender pay gap really kickstarted bringing more women into leading roles. Our industry is traditionally very male dominated, and whilst we are starting to see women in leading roles we really need to promote better from within.

I think because so many of our independent companies are family run there will still be the male legacy at the top of these companies so it will take some time to turn around. However hopefully more women will choose to take roles within our small businesses as they can now see that there are women in leading roles and that there is room for them to forge a career within our industry.

Coinslot: What have been some of the challenges you’ve encountered during your career and how did you overcome them?

Claire Naylor: I have never seen myself as my gender, I only view myself as my role within whichever organisation I have been employed by.

At hundreds of meetings I have been the only female present, and this is still the case today in many situations. However I have not let this stop me progressing and being effective in my day to day role, it should not matter what gender we are, only that we can make things happen and earn respect.

Coinslot: What advice would you give to women entering the workplace or taking the first steps in their careers?

Claire Naylor: Just go for it, be yourself and don’t concern yourself with what gender you are.

Coinslot: Looking forward, what projects would you like to drive forward?

Claire Naylor: I would like to see a new social group created ‘Women in Gaming’ or WIGs for short, it has been discussed before but never happened.

As an alternative to a golf day it would be good to meet and take part in some of the new exciting competitive socialising venues that have been introduced over the last few years for example. Or, you never know, we might all take up golf!

Coinslot: Would would you like to see in terms of change before the next International Women’s Day?

Claire Naylor: Just more of the same, more young women deciding to join our industry from university and more promotion of good female talent from within. There is no quick fix as it is grass roots and will take time to build within our traditionally male dominated business.

 

Joanne Craig

Lack of female representation at c-level must be addressed, says Joanne Craig

 

While the amusements industry has historically been made up of family businesses, those businesses have traditionally been led by men. As new generations took over, more women leaders picked up the family mantle, and with the rise of larger corporations and chain venues, many more female leaders rose to c-level positions. PokerFace Consultancy’s Joanne Craig believes representation of women in the industry continues to gain momentum, but that the category of ‘industry leaders’ – particularly those that get the most air time in Coinslot – is still disproportionately male dominated.

 

Coinslot: From your perspective as a manager in the industry and now a consultant, are we making progress towards a level playing field for women in amusements?

Joanne Craig: The playing field is certainly levelling with regards to opportunities within businesses, the representation of women is gaining momentum.

However, when I read Coinslot and there are quotes from ‘Industry Leaders’ the representation is not there. I am not sure whether this is due to opportunity or bias and whilst I in no way support positive discrimination, I do think this needs to be addressed.

Coinslot: What forward strides have been made to bring more women into leading roles, and what could the industry do to improve?

Joanne Craig: I am not a great believer in positive discrimination, I believe we should recruit/promote the best person for the job regardless of gender, race or age. You asked about a ‘level playing field’ and that is what we should be aiming for across the board.

In my humble opinion, we should be looking at our image and public perception of gambling as an industry; we need to highlight the potential that new recruits could have to progress through a dynamic fast moving industry, in order to attract the best candidates.

Joanne Craig PokerFace Consultancy
Joanne Craig

Coinslot: From a more personal perspective, how have you met and overcome the challenges encountered in your own career path and what lessons have you learned en route?

Joanne Craig: This year marks my 30th year in the industry and I have met and worked with some amazing, strong and inspiring men and women. The ratio of women to men in senior roles has certainly increased, but the quality has always been there.

I have been discriminated against as a married woman with kids, by men and women, more so because of the perceived lack of flexibility than my gender.

Only when I started working for a man with a working wife, did this improve. The incidence of partnerships with dual careers has massively increased over the past 30 years, so thankfully men are more aware and supportive of women in the workplace.

There is a great network of strong women in this industry who support each other, who I know would happily mentor anyone that needs it.

Coinslot: As someone who’s been through it, what key experiences would you pass on and what advice would you offer younger women to help develop their careers today?

Joanne Craig: From my experience I would pass on the following thoughts: You don’t know everything – listen and learn from those with more experience. They will not always be right, but you will always learn something. Be nice to everyone you meet, this is a very interconnected industry.

Coinslot: Looking ahead, can you give us an idea of your own personal aspirations and visions for the future? What projects would you like to drive forward?

Joanne Craig: I’m actually in a really good space right now – when I set up PokerFace in 2016, my target market was small operators who were struggling to implement Compliance solutions; and I have never stopped (except through lockdown!). I am working on giving something back right now, so looking to plan the Bacta North West Christmas Ball and start a mentoring project for new Managers in the Industry.

Coinslot: Finally, how would you like the landscape to have changed for women in business when we revisit the subject this time next year?

Joanne Craig: I would like to see women having the same opportunities as men, no more positive discrimination, because in my opinion this creates more problems in the long run.

 

Bernice Wall

Q&A

“We are so proud”: Future4Fairgrounds celebrate the crucial contribution of lady Showmen

With women often the unacknowledged driving force behind many businesses, the Future4Fairgrounds group has hailed the hard work and dedication that goes into being a lady Showman. Co-founder Bernice Wall tells Coinslot about the nuances facing women in the fairground sector.

 

Coinslot: In what are very disruptive and challenging times, would you say we are making progress towards a level playing field for women when it comes to opportunities in business?

Bernice Wall: Women are more highly skilled than ever. The business market is welcoming women more every day and women are ready for business

Future4Fairgrounds Women in Business Feature
LEFT TO RIGHT: HAYLEY DANTER, NICOLA HILL, JOANNIE PEAK, NARVENKA NOYCE, COLLEEN ROPER, BERNICE WALL

Coinslot: What would you highlight as some of the key advances made to bring more women into leading roles and where does the industry have to do better?

Bernice Wall: Women have always been in leading roles. In this diverse world we live in women are key to showing that our industry is gender friendly.

Coinslot: You have worked in the industry for many years and you’ve seen an increasing number of women taking senior roles, particularly in trade exhibitions, trade associations and many business operations of all sizes. From a more personal perspective, how have you met and overcome the challenges encountered in your own career path and what lessons have you learned en route?

Bernice Wall: Lady Showmen have been running fairground businesses for generations. Our business is a way of life, so the challenges are there continually for the ladies, but they have proven over the years they can juggle being in business and family life.

Coinslot: International Women’s Day is all about female trailblazers sharing their experiences with other women. What key experiences would you pass on and what advice would you offer younger women to help develop their careers today?

Bernice Wall: Always be confident that you can take on any life challenge.

Do the best you can in every situation, stay calm and carry on.

Coinslot: Looking ahead, can you give us an idea of your own personal aspirations and visions for the future? What projects would you like to drive forward?

Bernice Wall: F4F aim to continue to support Showmen and their families with the ever changing issues that arise.

We are inspired by the way Showmen can adjust and adapt but in many area’s of our business It is time for change?

We are involved in many projects and each is extremely important to us.

Coinslot: Finally, how would you like the landscape to have changed for women in business when we revisit the subject this time next year?

Bernice Wall: Education Education Education is key to the future of our business. More government support and understanding in schools for the cultural way of life.

We are extremely proud of all the ladies, girls and children with the skills they pick up and become expert at.

In this community we see women, quietly brave, some working hard behind the scene to help in the family business, some struggling to manage life every day and some totally on top of the job.

It makes no difference; we are all women of our industry and push forward.

There has been amazing leaps for the men of our business. Rides made easier to build up, business can be done in seconds over the phone, lorries and transport higher spec than ever.

Women, on on the other hand, are left behind when attending travelling fairs.

Rarely 24 hour electricity, not always water on site, living in smaller tourer homes while on fairgrounds. The women are main drivers on moving days, the business secretary, cook, mum, wife, grandma and daughter. Not easy when moving every 7 to 14 days.

So let’s hear it for the travelling Showmen ladies.

Any improvement to make their life easier is a goal for us all to aim for.

 

Kate Chambers

Companies need “bravery” in making appointments says Fulwood MD Kate Chambers

 

The former head of ICE and MD of Fulwood Media Kate Chambers has highlighted the need for “bravery” in company appointments, in order to build on the success of development initiatives.

 

Former ICE London MD Kate Chambers has encouraged company leaders to demonstrate more bravery in their endorsements and appointments in order to accelerate opportunities for female executives.

Kate Chambers MD Fulwood Media Women in Business
Kate Chambers MD, Fulwood Media

Highlighting the “great initiatives” currently open to women in the gaming industry such as Global Gaming Women, the MD of Fulwood Media urged firms to build on those programmes with demonstrable action.

“I think that there are several great initiatives going on and GGW is one of them,” said Chambers. “This is an active group of women and men, who come together to network, learn and promote themselves, and this is really important.”

“The ECA’s commitment to send great women executives on the ELDP with UNLV is also an excellent example of skilling up women in the industry.”

The nine-day Executive Development Programme at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, offers professional development for “the industry’s future C-suite executives.”

The ECA’s support for women on the course and the opportunities also offered by GGW, are two examples of the growing number of programmes geared towards addressing the imbalance of development opportunities for female executives, she noted.

However, Chambers acknowledged that “this all takes time to bed in when you see how long some of these initiatives have been running, and it will take some brave endorsements and appointments for things to really change.”

 

Q&A

During her time in charge of ICE London, Kate Chambers turned what was the world’s largest gaming exhibition into a supershow – a global magnet for the 40,000 top execs from the gaming and gambling industry. She has dealt with all the leading executives in every sector and virtually every country, so she knows a thing or two about the role of women in business. It was tough, it is tough but Kate Chambers, now running her own consultancy Fulwood Media which includes ICE as a client, sees changes happening, but it’s still slower than it should be.

 

Coinslot: In what are very disruptive and challenging times, would you say we are making progress towards a level playing field for women when it comes to opportunities in business?

Kate Chambers: I think that time moves really slowly in this respect. Despite the good intentions it’s still incredibly difficult for women to break though the glass ceiling and still too many women in the corporate world either leave to have children and then fight to make up lost time, or leave it too late for children to get a career.

However, there are opportunities for women to start their own businesses, but not everyone wants to do this.

So, in essence, it will take time for the playing field to even up as those that are at the top now, to retire or move roles, and this will create space for some great women to inch up the ladder.

Coinslot: What would you highlight as some of the key advances made to bring more women into leading roles and where does the industry have to do better?

Kate Chambers: I think that there are several great initiatives going on and GGW is one of them.

This is an active group of women, and men, who come together to network learn and promote themselves, and this is really important. The ECA’s commitment to send great women executives on the ELDP with UNLV is also an excellent example of skilling up women in the industry.

However, this all takes time to bed in when you see how long some of these initiatives have been running and it will take some brave endorsements and appointments for things to really change.

The Chambers challenge: “Women can be seen as the boss as much as men”

Coinslot: You have worked in the industry for many years and you’ve seen an increasing number of women taking senior roles, particularly in trade exhibitions, trade associations and many business operations of all sizes. From a more personal perspective, how have you met and overcome the challenges encountered in your own career path and what lessons have you learned on route?

Kate Chambers: Yes, to all the above. I think one of the things that I have learnt is that in order to get ahead women have to be themselves and they do not have to act like men in order to gain recognition.

Women bring a complementary set of skills to any organisation, and these are really needed. Thinking you have to be like a man in the same role, defeats why we should be there in the first place.

However, we also need to learn to network and do some self-promotion. There’s an old story about asking a women if she is ready for promotion and her looking at the task list and thinking I can do 6 out of the 10 and saying, I need to be better at the 4 things before I’m ready. The man, however, will say hey, I can do 6 of these things, I can learn the rest, yes – promote me.

So in some cases we can learn from men; but when we are there, we bring those unique set of skills that balance the boardroom!

Coinslot: International Women’s Day is all about female trailblazers sharing their experiences with other women. What key experiences would you pass on and what advice would you offer younger women to help develop their careers today?

Kate Chambers: Try and learn something new every day, networking is really important, and you find out who your sponsors are when you leave a job, not when you’re in it!

Be yourself and work out why you want it so you are authentic in your quest and keep learning though carefully chosen mentors.

Coinslot: Looking ahead, can you give us an idea of your own personal aspirations and visions for the future? What projects would you like to drive forward?

Kate Chambers: I really now want to do something for myself. After 30 years working in the corporate world, creating something for myself is really attractive.

I loved being part of the gaming world with ICE and so continuing to be part of it is a real drive. However, I am not an expert on gaming, but I am creatively driven so inspiring a new class of men and women to push the boundaries and create successful teams and companies, is something I really want to do. Hence the Gaming Boardroom, which will be on show over the next couple of weeks.

Coinslot: Finally, how would you like the landscape to have changed for women in business when we revisit the subject this time next year?

Kate Chambers: I would love to see women, and men, supporting the careers of young women who are coming up the ladder. To understand that they may take a break to have children, for themselves and their husbands, and that this is OK and it won’t affect their careers.

I would like to see a more balanced diverse workforce where the learnt bias of a generation ago, has no place in a modern successful business, and where women can be seen as the boss as much as men!

Probably a little wishful thinking for next year, but if you don’t dream, then things won’t happen!

 

 

 


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