By H. B. Ducasse, analist.
We live in times of transformation. On screens, in casinos, in companies, the battles that women around the world started years ago in various socio-cultural spaces are now getting results, with even more visibility in a context in which everything has moved to the online environment. The gaming industry is also moving towards a more inclusive and responsible scene. “Our events and conferences became less elitist and more financially viable for a variety of developers. Our talents are more visible,” celebrates Meghna Jayanth, a multi-award-winning game storyteller and gaming worker rights activist. Like her, more and more groups of organized women have been fighting for a cultural change in the sector. Until recently, this was a hard wall to cross, but now it has become receptive, with conferences, groups, protocols, awards, quota laws that shake the foundations of the industry and accompany a global fight for these demands. That shout driven by movements like #MeToo was echoed in gaming and today it is the germ of an unstoppable reform. Just take a quick look at the schedule of upcoming events.
GROUPS AND EVENTS
Tomorrow, Thursday, October 22nd, the University of Kentucky, in partnership with Information Technology Services UK, is hosting the panel “Women in the Gaming Industry.” It will focus on the debate on inclusion in the sector, and will highlight the way in which women have created their own spaces in the closed corporate world. Of course, they also ask for a renovation, always aiming for a more inclusive industry. “We wanted to bring together powerful voices with equally powerful stories to tell current and future generations of women interested in getting involved in the industry that there is room for them and that they can help pave the way for a new path that the industry needs to follow,” said Nathan Stevens, event organizer. This panel will bring together academics, marketing and advertising experts and developers, such as Rebecca Heineman (CEO of Olde Sküül); Manuela Malasaña (director of Team Dogpit); Kishonna Gray (professor at the University of Illinois, Chicago, and author of Intersectional Tech); and Shira Chess (associate professor at the University of Georgia and author of the book Play Like a Feminist).
Women take risks for their rights. This is certified by the proliferation of groups such as Women in Games, a non-partisan and non-profit organization founded in 2009, which already brings together ambassadors in 47 countries, always thinking about promoting gender equality in the gaming business. “Total, lasting equity and parity in all sectors of the gaming and sports industry and beyond,” they maintain, and promote actions for a culture and community free from discrimination, in which equal opportunities, treatment and conditions enable today’s children of all backgrounds to reach their full potential as future independent women.
Casinos are not on the sidelines. In another tone, but with similar objectives, the Great Women of Gaming organization also promotes radical changes. “Our goal is to achieve worldwide recognition of the contributions of exceptional women in the gaming industry,” they say. That’s why they organize the Great Women of Gaming awards. Originally introduced in 2004, the ‘Proven Leaders’ and ‘Rising Stars’ awards were recognized annually until 2012, when Global Gaming Women acquired the brand and rights to the award, which now resolutely seeks to raise awareness, strengthen prestige and celebrate the success of women in the global gaming industry.
DIVERSITY AND EQUITY
In that sense, in 2017, Christina Thakor-Rankin and Kelly Kehn launched the All-In Diversity Project to create tools in the industry that allow progress in terms of diversity, inclusion and equality in workplaces. Its main force is data collection, the measurement and the comparative evaluation of these tools through an annual report called ‘All-Index,’ aimed at the general public, but especially at operators and suppliers. There are already an overwhelming number of companies that are adhering to its inclusive protocols. Among others that joined this year, Betsson and GVC Holdings stand out. Although the list of organizations, conferences and groups that advocate for equity in the sector continues to grow, the road ahead has only just begun. However, there are positive signs, such as the fact that four of the nine Atlantic City casinos are run by women. The most recent jump forward was made by Jacqueline Grace as VP and General Manager of Tropicana. Now, she’s one of two African-American women in charge of the casinos in Atlantic City, joining Melonie Johnson, who took over as president and CEO of the Borgata this year.
It is clear that this evolution is more than a mere trend of the moment. With the efforts of all these increasingly organized women, pandemic through, current prospects generate optimism. A cultural shift towards responsibility and proactive protection of women workers is unfolding, to which sooner or later codes of conduct, company quotas and day-to-day dealings in general will be adapted. The image of companies of the industry is at stake. Fortunately, the sector has already taken note of this reality and is moving towards an inclusive and responsible horizon, a time mark for a better future.