“I am woman, hear me roar, in numbers too big to ignore, and I know too much to go back and pretend. Cause I’ve heard it all before and I’ve been down there on the floor; no one’s ever gonna keep me down again…Oh yes, I am wise, but it’s wisdom born of pain, yes, I’ve paid the price but look how much I gained; If I have to, I can do anything…”
These are a few of the familiar lyrics by Helen Reddy and Ray Burton from Reddy’s 1971 smash hit “I Am Woman,” which became the anthem for the women’s liberation movement. Perhaps the lyrics seem a bit cliché now, but the concept is enduring and certainly applicable to women employed in the male-dominated gaming business.
In 2011, the American Gaming Association (AGA) launched the Global Gaming Women (GGW) program to create a broad network for women employed in the gaming industry. The program was incredibly well-received and, in 2012, grew to encompass presentations and industry events globally, as well as regional and subset categories, including women in tribal gaming. Gaining increased support and involvement, in September 2012 GGW launched a new website that features video interviews and mentorship opportunities, as well as event coverage and support groups.
A women’s network in the gaming sector seems long overdue if one considers the data within the overall industry. According to recent statistics published in U.S. News and World Report, 45 percent of casino players are men and 55 percent are women. Additionally, a survey conducted by the AGA in 2007 reported that women outnumber men in gaming industry jobs, yet the number of women in management (3.1 percent) and the related compensation under-indexes compared to that of their male counterparts (12 percent of whom are in management-level roles), suggest a need to nurture female leaders.
Judy Patterson, executive director and senior vice president of the AGA, advocates that women move into gaming operations and challenge themselves beyond the more traditionally female communications and HR roles. She explains that GGW is as much of a grassroots effort as it is an AGA program. She says, “It’s a natural fit with a lot of other things that we’re doing, including diversity initiatives,” but women in the field are driving GGW.
GGW began with some conversations between Patterson, Patti Hart, IGT CEO, and Virginia McDowell, president and CEO of Isle of Capri Casinos Inc. Hart and McDowell serve as co-chairwomen of the GGW program.
“Through my own personal experience and in speaking with many women at various levels within our industry, I believe it is vital for the future of the gaming business that we cultivate the next generation of female leaders,” McDowell says. “I am excited to lead a forum for women in gaming to share their experiences and enhance their leadership skills.”
The goal is for female gaming professionals to create lasting connections and learn from one another as well as to nurture emerging female leaders. The mission of GGW is to support the development and success of women in the international gaming industry through education, mentorship and networking opportunities.
Global Gaming Women brings women from all segments of the industry together in an effort to enrich their professional and personal lives. Since its launch in 2011, GGW has grown into a thriving network of female gaming industry professionals and has provided them with a forum to share their experiences, advice and insights.
This past April at the National Indian Gaming Association’s trade show, GGW’s Symposium on the Role of Women in Tribal Government Gaming was hosted by the Sycuan Institute on Tribal Gaming at San Diego State University and was extremely well-attended. The panel discussion explored the cultural, organizational, business and lifestyle underpinnings of support for women in tribal gaming.
Interestingly, tribal gaming operations tend to employ women in management and senior leadership positions more commonly than their commercial counterparts. One example is the recent appointment of two women to the highest casino senior management positions at the Hard Rock Hotel Casino Albuquerque, which is operated by the Isleta Pueblo. Puebloan culture historically is somewhat male-dominated, so the Isleta Pueblo demonstrated progressiveness and insight when it recently approved seasoned industry professionals Pamela Gallegos as CEO and Maria Otero as CFO.
However, due to the unique functionality of tribal operations and their often remote locations, many female tribal gaming employees feel a strong need for mentorship, networking opportunities and support from other women. I interviewed several prominent women in the tribal gaming sector and found a unanimous desire for solidarity: complete agreement that a women’s network is important and necessary in the tribal gaming business. Here’s what they shared:
“It would be nice to be able to share ideas and motivational thoughts with one another. We face challenges by having few leadership positions. I’d like to see more women elected to represent on the board level or executive staff positions. Groups like this help us in creating these new avenues and acting on our shared ideas or sharing new innovations to boost each other in a male-dominated field.” —Paulette E. Jordan, Coeur d’Alene Tribe, ATNI Co-Chairwoman of Gaming and NIGA Northwest Board Representative
“…a woman is often perceived as naive, unknowledgeable and inexperienced. Moreover, being a Native American woman doubles that inaccurate opinion. Often vendors and consultants take advantage and, if not, at minimum, treat us as though we have no business acumen or any professional experience whatsoever.” —Sherry Treppa, Chairwoman, Habematolel Pomo of Upper Lake
“I am a tribal leader and have worked in the gaming industry from general manager to human resources…there are some big issues, and it would be great to brainstorm with other women who are or have been in this spot. I think the challenge would be being able to talk to women who don’t come from rural areas. When situations or projects come up, they can give you some resources and have a better feel of things in a larger community. It’s just nice to hear stories and how others handle the situations, someone to listen and talk to.” —Dora Bernal, Karuk Tribal Council
“In an industry that is dominated by men, there are several issues, but all have in common the misconception of [regarding] women as leaders within the industry. I would like to see industry-specific issues, new rules and guidelines, best practices, and lessons learned by others addressed in a women’s support group.” —Patricia Tate Sr., VP and CFO, Casino Arizona & Talking Stick Resort
“Not only will a women’s support group allow additional Native women to become part of the industry, it will assist with understanding the economic impacts that it might have on our communities, families and states. Education and advancement of women to executive positions within their own tribal gaming environment is a specific challenge we face. I would like to see support through education and consistent media communication.” —Maureen Curley, Navajo Nation Gaming and Technical Support Manager, SRPMIC
As the gaming industry continues to expand, it is unquestionable that the role of women in shaping the direction of the industry has become increasingly important. From the casino floor to the corner office, women are an integral part of all aspects of the gaming business. It is further apparent that the role of the GGW network is desired and integral within the tribal gaming industry. By bringing dynamic businesswomen together to share ideas, create new educational opportunities and connect the female leaders of today with the female leaders of tomorrow, Global Gaming Women serves an incredibly important role for the future.
GGW’s website features a Coffee Break video series, links to research and news articles about women in gaming, and information on a soon-to-launch mentoring program. News and updates about the GGW resources and events can be found at www.globalgamingwomen.org.