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Five Things Businesses Should Do For Gender Diversity

Wednesday, March 8th is International Women’s Day – a global day celebrating achievements of women as well as marking a call to action for accelerating gender parity. It's also a great time to talk about what we can do today to affect real change in order to improve diversity within our organisations. So in the spirit of celebration, here are 5 things that we can all do to start to move things toward gender parity, improve the bottom line within our businesses and lift the industry up as a whole.

1.    Set measurable targets and then measure them

Every successful business does this, so why aren’t we doing it to measure progress towards gender equity? If we are to change the current situation, we must hold ourselves accountable. The only way to do that is through practical target setting and clear metrics to measure progress.

Here is a starting point. We know that in the US and in the UK there is a near 50/50 split of men and women at entry level in Gaming. However, by the time we get to board level, the drop off is staggering. Of the 19 gaming companies listed on the FTSE 500, only 7.6% of the leadership is comprised of women. It’s even less at 3% in the US. A 2016 study by Ernst and Young revealed that increasing representation of women on boards to 30% could increase net margins by 6%.[1]

We should not look to implement quotas for quota sake. There is proof that increasing the number of women at the Board level increases success of a business. Until we have set goals with achievable targets, clear metrics for measurement and actual data, we can never identify obstacles that keep us from reaching full potential.

2.    Talk to your female colleagues, co-workers and employees to align perceptions

There is a reason that the book, “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus,” is a bestseller. There are fundamental psychological differences between the two sexes. This is important to understand this from an employment perspective, a mentoring role and in order to understand customer behaviour.  In a survey done by Ernst and Young 43% of men said that the most significant barrier to women’s careers was a shortage of female candidates. Only 7% of women agreed. The top three barriers women did list were a lack of support from the business, bias, and the conflicts of raising a family.[2] Perception is everything.

Make a point to have a chat with women in your organisation about current policies, their thoughts on potential for advancement, marketing messages and challenges they face in their day to day. Aligning perceptions will bring you closer to a more inclusive culture, create more employee loyalty and save you money in the long run. It will also likely highlight some high-achievers within your organisations who are not going to follow the “traditional route” to senior management. If we can align perceptions of how to advance the best talent, we open up our business to new opportunities, new revenue and new ways to operate.

3.    Consider how you and your organisation can play an active role in improving the Gaming industry’s image to the outside world through gender diversity.

ICE is still fresh in everyone’s mind. This year, it was suggested that we reconsider the seemingly required half-naked models at every stand during this event, as it didn’t resonate with the increasing numbers of female decision makers in attendance. I agree. This is a simple action that can have significant effects on the image of the industry as a whole.

Further, an overall audit of our current external marketing and advertising strategies would likely reveal that we aren’t doing ourselves many favours on image. Are we delivering clear brand promises in our messages? Or are we delivering cheap stereotypes? And if the latter, why are we spending MILLIONS of dollars (pounds, euro, etc) doing so?

The image of our industry is not just about ego and whether our mom’s can brag to their friends about how successful we are. Industry image affects how well we can recruit, how we can market to new customers and how our stocks perform. This is very much about working to raise the industry up as a whole by improving our own internal practices.

4.    Don’t assume gender diversity will happen on it’s own.

It’s not going to.

There have been several global studies that estimate at the current rate of change, it will take over 100 years to achieve gender parity. [3] Gaming is even further behind this rate. We all need to do our part to improve the current state.

For the men:

Gaming will remain in the dark ages without your participation. We need advocates, we need the decision-makers supporting the careers of high achieving women, supporting policies and supporting the dynamic we bring to the table.  We need you to support inclusive networking opportunities and mentorship programs. We need you to take parental leave, not only so the women can get back to work, but also so that we can see you taking the lead supporting women in business.

For the women:

You are the key to moving our industry toward success. Take charge of your career and ask for what you want. Look for mentors both inside and outside of the industry. Speak up when things can be improved. Take an interest in new talent to the industry and if you aspire to senior management, start thinking about what skills and experience you need to get there. Ask for help. Start getting the experience. Say yes to opportunities.

5.    Consider critically where and how unconscious bias impacts your decisions about who to work with, who to hire and how to network and collaborate

We are all guilty of using our “niche” industry experience to our advantage in job hunting and networking. How many of us have been invited for interviews and then received offers because we simply have “gaming experience?” How many times have we made a purchasing decision solely based on the fact that we have done business with the same guy when he was at (INSERT ANY GAMING COMPANY NAME HERE)?

First, let’s consider what roles truly need gaming experience. Yes, product knowledge is key for product managers. I would argue that many other roles would benefit from having candidate experience from other industries – marketing, compliance, customer service, design, finance, payments, etc. Asking for gaming experience when recruiting can limit our available talent pool and excludes us from accessing top talent. Not to mention, it only further insulates the old boys club. New perspectives, new ideas and outside experience are good things for all of our businesses.

We also need to consider how we are interviewing, whom we want to hire and how we are networking in the larger industry. In interviews, are the candidates meeting both male and female stakeholders? Having both men and women speak to potential candidates can help reveal any bias held by one side or the other. As well, where are social and networking events being held? Are they inclusive for both male and female? Or do we just expect the ladies to “man up” and join the lads at the Playboy Club?

International Women’s Day is a day to celebrate women as well as a call to accelerate the move towards gender parity. Making small changes and having real conversations on the issue will equate to real increases in revenue, a better more inclusive working culture, a better industry image and very likely, better products.