We are getting closer to the time when we will meet our Most Influential Women nominees for 2023. This year, we asked the judges how they see the current state of inclusion and diversity in the industry. Also, they explain why Most Influential Woman is a vital initiative.
Ewa Bakun, director of Industry Insight and Engagement at Clarion Gaming. She is responsible for gathering and analysing insights, monitoring market intelligence and forming key industry connections.
Bakun says, “It is a great honor to be asked back to serve on the judging panel for Most Influential Woman.” We’ve received more entries every year, and it’s exciting to hear about women executives who are making strides and achieving success.
Bakun is convinced that initiatives such as Most Influential Women can help bring positive changes to the industry.
She explains, “I was sceptical of initiatives that were devoted to one group underrepresented. I saw it as another way to marginalise a topic.” In the end, there are no Most Influential Males in Gaming.
Because males and whites are considered the default, it is important to celebrate and highlight those who come from underrepresented and marginalized groups. This is because these people have been overlooked for so many years.
Britt Boeskov serves on the boards of several companies, including Better Collective and MAG Interactive. She is also a non-executive Director at Mindway AI, Gaming1 as well as the owner and principal of 4see Advice.
Boeskov spent 17 years at Kindred. She had a number of different roles before she was appointed chief experience officer (CXO) in March 2022.
Although she believes awareness about diversity, equality and inclusion (DEI), is increasing, there’s always room to improve.
She says that while the perception of DEI as an aspect that creates value is increasing, our industry remains divided. Some are actively promoting DEI, and others find it too difficult or far from their goals.
We will achieve stronger and more lasting results if we can engage an engaged, diverse group of people who are motivated to think in different ways about the challenges they face while still respecting one another. This is something that is both possible and desirable. The Most Influential Women Campaign is an example of this.
Andrew Bulloss, the COO of executive search company Odgers-Berndtson and head of global gaming is a leader in this field. The role has been his for the past 14 years.
Bulloss, who works in the field of human resources management, has witnessed how workplace diversity benefits all aspects of business.
He says, “As the CEO of a global recruitment firm with operations in 30 different industries, I’ve seen first-hand how a diverse workforce has a positive effect on workplace culture, commercial growth, and innovation, to name just a few.”
Bulloss is convinced that while Most Influential Woman may not be able to solve the entire industry’s issues, diversity campaigns have a positive impact.
He says that campaigns like “Most Influential Women” aren’t the answer to a more diverse gaming industry, but are at least a good start. The more we recognize the achievements of underrepresented groups within our industry, then more people will listen to us and take action.
Christie Eickelman, one of the returning judges for Most Influential Woman’s award, is Vice President of Global Marketing at Gaming Laboratories International. She has worked in various capacities over the last 25 years.
Eickelman knows the impact that initiatives such as Most Influential Women have on their nominees.
Eickelman says, “I’m happy and honored to return as a Judge.” The return is a result of many factors, including the desire to look back on the 2022 recipients and see the improvements they made in the last year.
According to her, initiatives such as Most Influential Women encourage women and elevate them in the industry.
She explains, “We have seen significant changes in the last few years and it’s concerning that so many women leave our industry.” This initiative gives them a sense of recognition that they’re strong leaders who deserve to be in this industry.
Anika Howard, the Chief Executive Officer of Wondr Nation is a gaming company founded by Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation.
Howard’s career has been long and diverse, starting with Caesars Gaming and extending to International Game Technology.
After that, she was promoted to vice president of brand marketing and digital for Foxwoods Resorts Casino. She now holds her current position with Wondr Nation.
She spoke with iGB at ICE 2023 about her desire to nurture relationships in the tribal gaming sector.
Marese is a Senior Reporter at iGaming Business. She was part of the Most Influential Woman campaign in 2013, but this is the first time she has been on the panel.
She says, “Although last year I had the opportunity to assess their quality, this time it is great to be able to make more decisions.”
O’Hagan thinks that DEI has made some progress in the last 12 months. However, she feels it is important to continue the fight.
She says that there have been significant improvements in perceptions of inclusion and diversity in the past year. This is a result of deliberate steps towards DEI.
Active participation in the DEI cause is great, such as appearing on webinars or panels. “But quieter movements like the All-Female Issue of iGB Magazine I edited last Year, or even Most Influential Women can be as effective.”
Richard Schuetz, the CEO and owner of Schuetz LLC is a gaming consultant. He was previously an executive director for the Bermuda Casino Gaming Commission.
The Most Influential Women Initiative is a new initiative for him, and he says that he’s excited about it.
He says, “I’m honored to be back as a Judge.” I have been involved in gaming for many years and this has helped me understand the talent that exists around the world.
Schuetz points out a gender imbalance in sports betting.
He explains, “I am based in the US. The story over the past five years here has all been about sports betting.” While there’s a lot of male chauvinism in traditional gambling, the problem is magnified in sports betting. In the rush to enter more sports betting markets, it seems diversity and inclusivity have been pushed aside.
Jamie Shea, a new member of the Most Influential Women panel judging team, says that analyzing this year’s nominees will help her learn more about the women at the forefront of the DEI discussion.
She says, “As a judge I have the opportunity to learn more about women nominated for the award and those who are driving the movement.”
Shea has observed progress made in DEI in the last few years but believes that a lot more work is needed to achieve lasting change. Shea has also noted changes in the representation of LGBTQ+ people.
She explains, “things have improved in leaps and bounds during the past few years.” We still have much work to be done, but I’m seeing more and more progress every year. I had the opportunity to speak on a panel earlier this year about issues in our LGBTQ+ communities. It was my first experience of such topics being discussed openly. It was a great honor to be invited.
The more diversity is promoted and more women are appointed to senior positions, the stronger the message will be that everyone has a place, not just in the gaming industry, but also across other industries.
Helen Walton, the chief commercial officer of G.Games and founder is a highly respected figure in gaming. She is a regular on industry award panels but holds Most Influential Woman in particular high regard.
She explains that she judges a number of awards because her interests are in innovation and entrepreneurialism. The Most Influential Women Award is the one I am most proud of.
Walton says that the diversity of the industry in 2023 will be influenced by the increasing visibility of women at senior levels.
She says, “When I joined the industry for the first time, a lack in respect of female leadership was all-pervasive and very upsetting.” As more women are taking on senior and highly visible roles, diversity, inclusivity and accessibility have become part of the way we represent ourselves in the entertainment industry as one that is socially responsible.