The iGaming and sports betting industries have traditionally been male-dominated, but that’s changing as more successful and inspiring women leaders are bringing their unique perspectives to the table. In celebration of International Women’s Day, we spoke with a variety of female leaders within the online gaming industry who are breaking down barriers and inspiring the next generation of women in the industry.
Leaders in this episode:
Danielle Bush, Senior Counsel at McCarthy Tétrault
Bronwen Gregg, Senior Account Manager of Emerging Markets at Insight Global
Kate McKiernan, Media & Partnerships Manager at FanDuel
Shelley White, CEO at Responsible Gambling Council
Kristi Lewis, VP of Marketing at Paramount Commerce
The iGaming Show, presented by Paramount Commerce, is a podcast that will analyze gaming industry trends with experts from various gaming organizations.
Please like, comment, and share this video. Also, stay up to date with our content by subscribing to our YouTube channel.
Full episode transcript:
Varad Mehta: Hello everyone. And welcome to the 10th episode of The iGaming Show, presented by Paramount Commerce. I’m your host, Varad Mehta. And in this podcast, we analyze gaming industry trends with experts from various gaming organizations. In today’s episode,we are marking International Women’s Day by speaking with female leaders in or associated with the gaming industry. Our guests today are Danielle Bush, Senior Counsel at McCarthy Tétrault. Bronwen Gregg, Senior Account Manager of Emerging Markets at Insight Global. Kate McKiernan, Media and Partnerships Manager at FanDuel. Shelley White, CEO at Responsible Gambling Council. And Kristi Lewis, the VP of Marketing at Paramount Commerce. So, without further ado, let’s get the show rolling.
VM: I hope I’m right on this, but I believe you are or were a vocalist during your school years.
BG: Yes. You did your research.
VM: So what’s one song or maybe you can tell us about what you performed in that time, but what’s one song that you just love to belt out and it gives you absolute peace?
Bronwen Gregg: Amazing question. So, yeah, I was a total musical theater geek in high school. I loved it and honestly, all through childhood, love to sing, was in choir, all musical review, all of that kind of stuff. But in terms of right now favourite songs, honestly, like anything by Adele, I love her new album and I will belt that out and shower all the time.
VM: I love that answer. So Adele. Yes. If I want to relax, would you recommend me visiting the Burrow Beach or Sutton Strand?
Kate McKiernan: That is so funny. So I’m from near Sutton Strand, but equally Burrow is beautiful. So where I’m from it’s just outside of Dublin, and it’s on a little peninsula called like the Sutton and Howth Peninsula. So it’s all surrounded by water. So there’s lovely walks that you can do if it’s ever hot, which is a rare day in Ireland, people will go swimming there as well. But honestly, both equally as beautiful. But I’m going to be biased and say Sutton Strand.
VM: Sutton Strand. It did look beautiful. I saw photos. It looks really nice. As someone who has studied archaeology, how academically accurate is the character of Indiana Jones?
Danielle Bush: You know what, I would like to say that it’s not accurate at all, but in terms of the swagger, I would say yes, it is more accurate than you might think. But for the most part, most archaeologists are pretty reserved. There are no cowboys in the field, I would say. Certainly, you don’t get to find lots of amazing treasure in most parts.
VM: Did you ever take the 201 Stat to your school?
Kristi Lewis: Oh, yes, I did. Absolutely. Good one. Yes. That is the bus that goes straight from Saint Albert to the University of Alberta. No stops.
VM: No stops. Okay. I didn’t know that. Okay, cool.
BG: Honestly, my favourite story to share so my favourite, biggest mentor is Sue Schneider. She has made such an incredible impact on my career and quite honestly has changed my life. So at that first virtual breakfast that I attended. Sue and I set up a follow up after the fact and it turned out SBC was actually looking for a recruiting firm to run a career fair at their first consumer-facing sports betting event and so I was really excited, obviously, to engage in that way. But Sue also asked me to moderate a panel. And I’d never moderated, I’d never quite honestly even been to a trade show to see a panel taking place. I had no idea what I was doing. And I could have totally let that impostor moment get to me. But Sue was so empowering, so encouraging. She really believed in me and gave me this platform to succeed and it changed everything once again.
KM: I think from my perspective as well, I was the only media person here as well when we first started and I’ve kind of like built the team from the ground up too. We’ve done some great campaigns. We just finished up with Super Bowl there as well. That was so exciting. It was our first Super Bowl too. We’re now going into March Madness and baseball is going to start back up. We’ve got playoffs, it’s always on the go. But yeah, I think in the past year I can really look back and reflect on that and be like, wow, we did that. I was there for that from the very first day.
DB: Absolutely. Certainly those of us who’ve been in the gaming industry, or working for it, in my case in Canada for decades, are still stunned in a very pleasant way that we actually managed to get online gaming regulated legalized taxed into Ontario. That has been something most of us did not think we would ever see happen in our lifetime.
Shelley White: Yeah, well, there’s lots. And obviously none of this work is done by one individual. This has really been a collaborative effort and that’s probably one of the things that I’m most proud of, is the collaboration that has taken place between RGC and the regulators and operators around the world. And when I started with RGC six years ago, it was primarily a Canadian organization. And I have to say, in the last six years we’ve done just an extraordinary job of working with the industry globally. We now do work in five different continents and twelve different countries.
KL: Yeah, for me, I mean, I’ve had a few good opportunities to run some big projects in my career,so some of them tens of millions. But for me, I think success really comes down to people. So I absolutely love building high performing teams and so Paramount Commerce has given me the opportunity to do that now for the second time in my career. And so when my team is achieving success and our metrics and the individualson my team are achieving their goals, then that’s really where I feel a true sense of pride.
BG: There have been a lot, but something recently that happened right I think this is just an ongoing thing that women have to deal with until there is a strong culture shift. But at a recent trade show I was at ICE London, I was at a networking party that my company sponsored. And I led the charge with that right, getting the sponsorship in place, making the business case. I was really excited for us to be sponsoring this event. Had a ton of clients there. We had a great night. As I was leaving, an older gentleman approached me and he was French, he was speaking in French,I couldn’t quite hear him. And it turns out he was propositioning me as if I were an escort. And in that moment too, I feel very empowered. I feel very empowered. I feel like I have a great group of mentors through these organizations in this industry. So right, like I should quote unquote, know what to do in that situation and know how to react. But I was so blindsided, all I could do was cry. And so I can only imagine how it is for maybe younger women who are entering the industry, those who are newer maybe haven’t found the mentorship or the support from groups like GGW and Wise that could totally turn them off from the industry.
KM: I guess in general, even in the iGaming industry, the sports betting industry, it is a very male dominate dindustry as well. I think all the kind of female colleagues, are kind of aware of that and I think it is quite intimidating when you first kind of start in the place. But I think I’m surrounded by such amazing people that are always encouraging your career progression, they’re always encouraging you and I think that’s why FanDuel, I find, is like such a great place to work as well because there’s constant encouragement like how do you kind of be more successful, that kind of side of things.
DB: To be a woman in an industry that is, certainly when I started to work with gaming companies and companies in the space, generally speaking, I was the only woman in the room most of the time. I would say probably 99% of the time. But I had and have a role model in Hillary Stewart Jones who is one of the leading gaming lawyers in the world out in the UK. And she really has opened up the path for women. But it was hard. And the thing is, it’s not just that it’s not like banking that was traditionally male-dominated as well, or pick any industry, but it’s just the whole view that the industry like that gaming has of women you think about the casinos 30 years ago with the women in bikinis and feathers headdresses and things like that. I mean, it’s just a very sexist, for lack of a better word, let’s just call it what it is, view of women. And that’s changed a huge amount. But to actually be taken seriously and to be heard was a struggle at the beginning.
SW: When I first started with RGC, there were encountered some resistance by some operators to having robust RG (responsible gambling). There was a concern – this wasn’t all of the operators and regulators, but it was certainly there were some. And the big concern was if they adopted RG, there’d be a negative impact on their bottom line. And I’m really pleased to say that over the last six years there’s been a reversal in that and that we’re now seeing that responsible gambling is integrated into operators who are leaders in their strategy and they see it as part of their customer relationships, part of their sustainability.
KL: So I think all women face challenges and I mean, I’m going to be very transparent. I’ve only been in the iGaming industry for about two years, but prior to this, I come from payments and finance, which again is traditionally a male-dominated space. And so I have an example of I had a really amazing boss and she had put my name forward for running this huge project. It was a massive opportunity and so we had a brand new VP and we hadn’t worked together very much up until that point. And so when she put my name forward,his response, and this is a direct quote, is that Kristi is quote unquote, a cheerleader. And so he didn’t think that I was capable of running this big project. And so I think when it comes to perceptions, it’s an uphill battle for female leaders in the industry.
BG: But other strategies that for younger women entering the industry or you don’t even need to be on anyone entering the industry or allies, right? You don’t even need to be a woman. But getting involved with organizations like Global Gaming Women and Wise (Women in Sports and Events), there are so many other ones too. All in Diversity Project does such great work in the space. And I think on the flip side, for companies to have more intention around inclusivity and equity diversity, et cetera. There are so many things, I mean, from a baseline, flexible work policies and if work from home isn’t an option, is paid childcare an option? Or things like equal parental leave. Right, that has been proven to close the gender pay gap by a lot. And then also, of course, initiatives to make sure that the gender pay gap is as close as possible.
KM: I know.Yeah, definitely. I think something I sort of just touched on as well within FanDuel as well, they kind of put you into development programs as well to build on your confidence, build on your presentation skills to help you with the gaps that you might have within your current role that you’re not 100% confident in. They will also assign you with a mentor so that you would be able to help with conversations that you might find difficult, any situations that you might approach that you might find difficult. And it’s kind of just like another person to chat to and to go to that you might not want to directly talk to your manager about. And I think those are some really great initiatives that FanDuel has taken to really encourage more women to work here, for more women to apply for jobs here. And I just think it is really important for us to continue that as well. I don’t think you can kind of just do a one-off thing like oh, give them some mentor and that’s it. It kind of feels like it has to be, it’s an ongoing thing. And as I said, yeah, in the past couple of years, I’ve really seen huge progress within the whole industry as well. So it’s been really great to see.
DB: It just requires that leadership and management be mindful, number one, be interested in actually promoting women into positions all the way up to the ranks and then acting on it. You’re not going to get movement in any situation where you want to see women taking on more and more roles if management doesn’t both commit and then action on it and require that everybody in the senior ranks also takes it seriously. Until you get complete buy-in,it’s going to be a lot of window dressing.
SW: I think that two recommendations that I would make to the industry. And this isn’t just the gambling industry, it exists in other industries as well. But I think there is an opportunity for more women to sit on boards, of publicly traded gambling operators. I think that women provide a very unique and important perspective in the decision-making process. I think a diverse mindset is extremely important in terms
of making the best solutions and best decisions. So I think more women on boards is certainly a practice. And I have to say that at conferences I’d like to see more women participating on panels and I think that that would go a long way in terms of actually demonstrating the industry’s commitment to female leadership.
KL: Yeah, absolutely. I think when it comes to companies, I think knowing the data is really important. So having an idea of what percentage of employees are women, what percentage of the leadership team is women. So from there you can identify if you actually have a problem in terms of diversity within the organization. And then I think there are certain initiatives that really tend to attract women employees and I think anything to do with flexibility, giving people the opportunity to balance that home and work balance is really important.
BG: Not being afraid to speak up as well. We’re in a time where, and it should have happened a long time ago, but right, people are more open, people are more intentional with calling out bias. And so I think just speaking up and putting yourself out there is probably the best advice for growing your career within this industry.
KM: Yeah, I guess I think the biggest thing for me is that it’s kind of like, don’t be afraid, just go for it and also be confident. Look for a mentor, find people who you look up to. Like, as we were talking about earlier, those are really huge things that helped me overcome any challenges or any sort of moments where I was like, oh, I don’t know, should I be cut out for this job? That type of thing. When you have people that you surround yourself with and you can look up to, like, that’s one of the most amazing things. And then I guess the kind of like last point as well is do your research. Research, like understand what companies are offering, what initiatives they’re doing. These should all be readily available on any website as well. I’m lucky enough to work for a company that I know that any sort of value that I put in will be recognized as well. And I think that’s really important and definitely should be important as well for someone who’s applying for a job within this industry.
DB: I think certainly you need to know what you’re getting into, right? You have to have done your research, you have to understand what the industry is like right now. You have to have a thick skin and you have to be very confident, even if you actually aren’t. You have to be able to put on a mask of self-confidence and maintain it at all times. And you really do need to know your stuff.
SW: This is a really interesting time in the gambling industry given the growth and diversification. It’s fast-paced, it’s innovative, it’s evidence-based, but it’s also focused on being humanitarian. And so for individuals that are interested in making a real difference and I know this is something that is a priority for younger generations, that there is a tremendous opportunity within the gambling industry to make a real difference in people’s lives by preventing gambling harms and supporting them. And we need individuals who want to make a difference in society and in people’s lives.
KL: Yeah, I think, I can go for it. If you’re interested in a space that is fast-paced, interesting, always changing, your day-to-day, never looks the same, then this could be a really interesting space for you. And of course a shameless plug for Paramount Commerce. I think that it’s such a fantastic organization to work for and kind of coming from the payment space and dipping my toes in iGaming and sports betting with Paramount Commerce has been just a fantastic opportunity.
VM: Thank you to all the amazing leaders who joined us for this special episode and shared their amazing stories with us. A special shout-out to Danielle Bush, Bronwen Gregg, Kate McKiernan, Shelley White, and Kristi Lewis. If you have any questions for us or any of the leaders in this episode, then please comment down below. If you enjoyed today’s podcast then please, like, share and subscribe to our YouTube channel. And as always, thank you so much for tuning into The iGaming Show presented by Paramount Commerce. I’m your host, Varad Mehta. And until next time, keep gaming.