The Weather

There has been lots of news lately on the new “diversity” of boards of directors and C-suite executives. But how much has really changed? Longtime gaming executive Richard Schuetz (l.) wonders whether we’ve set the bar too low.

The Weather

“Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.”
Charles Dudley Warner, 1897

It was recently announced that IGT “Wins Diverse and Inclusive Team of the Year” award at the 2019 Women in Gaming Diversity Awards held in London. This was clearly an important award to win for IGT as it sent out two press releases about the achievement. Yet, when you look at IGT’s website and click on those sections that detail the Board of Directors and management, it seems that this award could not have placed too much importance on the gender diversity of the company’s board or management. There were ten pictures under the heading of IGT management and nine of those appeared to be male; for the board of directors there are nine pictures and only one was a woman.

Shortly after the IGT announcement, the company Everi was applauded for being a Winning “W” company by the organization 2020 Women on Boards. This W designation is given to those companies that achieve a 20 percent level of female board membership and are thus identified as “Winners.” The 2020 date is included in the title because that date represents the 100-year anniversary of when women were granted the right to vote in the United States. One does wonder if any of the women who were granted this right to vote ever dreamed that after 100 years that there may actually be companies that might have women in 20 percent of leadership roles? At this rate it will only take another century and one-half for women to secure equality. Oh, to dream.

While the 20 percent threshold sounds like a rather low bar to be considered a winner, be careful with making this judgment. The California Public Employees’ Pension Fund, the largest such fund in the world, recently castigated Red Rock Resorts for having a board that is exclusively white men. And one only needs to look to the Sands Corporation website list of corporate and property leadership to see that it is a list of seven names, all male. Go to the listing for the board and you will find one woman on a 10-member board.

And these companies are not alone. In the gaming manufacturing world, for instance, check the Konami website. It has two lists that include pictures. The first is of the Executive Team and it includes six pictures. They are all men. The next heading is Senior Management and it includes 21 pictures. Two of these are of women. So between the Executive Team and Senior Management Konami has been able to find two people out of 27 people who are female and were determined good enough to be in senior leadership positions for this company. Damn, they are strict, and that search must have been exhausting.

Scientific Games avoids the picture trap by not using pictures, which helps disguise the fact that the identity of the 13 people the company lists in Senior Leadership are all men. Scientific Games does have two women on their 12-person board… and may soon qualify for the coveted W Award if they could only add another—oh, to dream.

And on and on it goes.

It does seem that something strange is going on here. We have these press releases and awards suggesting that women are making great inroads in the gaming world, and corporation after corporation talks of their great commitments to gender diversity. Yet the reality of senior leadership clearly states that the corporations feel that the best way to support their investors is by making sure that very few women are actually involved in senior positions.

The data clearly speaks to the fact that the men who run the gaming industry seem to believe they can run it better if they do not have many women in senior leadership roles. From a statistical standpoint, it is clear this is systemic discrimination—or, gaming leadership believes that women just are not good enough. It would be nice if Konami, Sci Games, MGM and the lot might explain the damage they anticipate would occur from allowing more women in senior leadership roles. I am sure none of them will bother with this for these men are quite busy working with their PR arms to shape mission statements, press releases and the like that are all about gender diversity, and it appears that it is a lot easier for them to create this fiction than to actually do anything real about it.

Yes, the gaming industry should be proud of the testosterone trail of history that it continues to create, and God could only imagine how this brilliant decision making machine would be less brilliant if it were to have allowed women to participate.

My dear friend Jan Jones Blackhurst is no stranger to the world of blatant sexism in the upper ranks of the gaming industry. In her oral history published in the UNLV Gaming Law Journal in 2017, she has a wonderfully insightful quote as someone close to the scene for a great many years:

“I’ve been giving the same speech for the past twenty-five years on pay equity. Why am I still giving the same speech? Why is the representation of women exactly the same on corporate boards, in corporate C-suites, and in government? They haven’t changed at all. If anything, it has gone down.”

The point of all of this is to pay attention. To the people of the gaming world I, as Jan suggests, believe that you are being bull-shitted if you think reasonable progress is being made in the area of gender diversity. When you hear the speeches and the pronouncements, when you see the awards and read the releases, do not be afraid to check out the financial statements and the websites, and check out all of those male faces smiling at you. As Churchill once suggested – “However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.”

Well, the results are embarrassing unless, of course, you think systemic discrimination is cool.

Over 20 years ago it was my honor to accompany then Mayor Jan Jones on a walk to support a social cause in Las Vegas. Of the thousands of people participating in that walk was a group of about 30 high school girls all adorned in matching T-shirts. When they saw Jan the whole group went to surround her and ask that she autograph their shirts and hats, to shake her hand, and hug her. These young women were quite excited to be in her presence and it was clear that she represented something terribly important to them. I have always believed that the something terribly important was that they saw the promise in Jan that they could rise to the highest levels of their potential

Twenty years later I wonder about those 30 high school female students, and wonder what 20 years of systemic discrimination has done to their spirits, for one only needs to look at the pictures of the leadership of the gaming industry and see clearly that the deck is stacked against them. Moreover, nothing real seems to be changing.

Articles by Author: Richard Schuetz

Richard Schuetz started dealing blackjack for Bill Harrah 47 years ago, and has traveled the world as a casino executive, educator and regulator. He is sincerely appreciative of the help he received from his friends and colleagues throughout the gaming world in developing this article, understanding that any and all errors are his own.