November 14, 2022 Interview

Leveling out the ladder


Cassie Stratford, President of Global Gaming Women (and otherwise an SVP at Boyd Gaming) fills us in on the progress being made for women and diversity in the gaming industry.

Can you please explain what Global Gaming Women (GGW) is and what it does?

It’s an organization that was borne out of a project by the American Gaming Association (AGA). We took a critical look at the issue of adversity and specifically gender diversity. We found that there was a lack of females in the higher ranks of the industry. On the frontline level. there is more of a gender parity, but when you get to the higher levels, the numbers become more and more skewed towards males, unfortunately.

The AGA started an initiative to address this problem. Out of that, it was spun off into its own NPO organization thanks to the hard work of our founding board members back in 2015 and really was focused on the professional development of women in our industry. So it started with trying to create opportunities for educational programming. The focus was not substance based, so you didn’t have to be in marketing or slots or sales – really it was just focused on professional development. And also networking, as we all know that’s a really important part of the business. We’ve focused on those pillars and expanded from there, in terms of what our different offerings look like. 

How many members are there?

It’s a free-to-join organization, and we have a membership database which is about 7,000 at the moment. It’s not a paid membership, you can simply go to our site, sign up and start to receive information about the programs. After events like G2E, we tend to see big influxes of sign-ups, which is fantastic.

One thing that is surprising is the amount of males who turn up to our events to learn and listen and to be allies. In the ‘Lean In’ breakfast we recently held, there may have been about 20% men in there. Some were there to support and some were there to share their expertise. I think that is something that can help move the needle too. It can’t just be women supporting women. It has to be everyone looking at the industry and saying, is there more we could be doing about diversity? How can we all do that together because if you stick to an exclusive group, you aren’t going to support the problem.

How would you characterize the state of women in the industry?
I see this in my normal job at Boyd Gaming and in this role: there are so many incredible women. Smart, good people who help build cultures. And that’s what shocked me: that historically there haven’t been so many women in these senior leadership roles.

We’re seeing movement in that regard, and I think that’s an amalgamation of a lot of positive things coming together. I’d like to think that part of that is due to what’s being accomplished by GGW. Without a doubt, it’s being done now due to some female trailblazers in the industry, helping other women come up to navigate the steps.

I think it’s also because of male allies, I’ve had incredible male mentors who have helped me along across the years. Public companies are now being forced to think about their ESG obligations, and a piece of that is diversity. So companies are having to answer questions about the diversity of their board. It’s forcing companies to start identifying and developing female talent, because you can’t just check a box and put any woman in if they don’t have the skillset – it doesn’t help the company. It doesn’t help the individual.

Do you think that the gaming industry is inherently more misogynistic than other industries?

No, I actually don’t. It’s an industry that has been around for a long time in the traditional sense, in the brick-and-mortar sense, and it was male-dominated at the time when it developed and grew. As we see the industry really take off, when it comes to technology, online and sports betting, I think that it’s not so male-dominated anymore. I’ve never seen it as uniquely misogynistic as an industry.

Whenever you have an industry that’s mostly run by males then of course you are going to see some biases. I think it’s human nature to want to be around people who are more like you. It’s okay to admit that. But then you have to ask ‘Am I getting any unique perspective from people who aren’t just like me?’ Because
you’ll be better off from having different points of view.

Going back to your question about misogyny: just from my personal perspective, I’ve had some fantastic female mentors but also some fantastic male mentors, people I would not have developed my career without. They’ve been nothing but supportive throughout, so my experience has been a positive one.

You’re seeing more and more women do it. Sandra Douglass Morgan is now the President of the Raiders and she was Chair of the Nevada Gaming Board, she’s fantastic. Sports isn’t just for men anymore, that mold is being broken, though there may still be that image of the industry. But when you get a closer look in, you see that's wrong.

In 3-5 years from now, what would the achievements of GGW look like?
My hope is that someday, an organization like this will become unnecessary, that we would have solved this gap in our industry and we don’t need an organization like this that is solely focused on solving that problem. That said, I think there will always be a need for opportunities for people in our industry who want to grow, who want to focus on their personal and professional development, and who need that little boost of encouragement.

My hope for our organization is that the statistics will one day speak for themselves in terms of more diversity in numbers. I hope we can continue to grow and offer programs to help people work in such an interesting industry that is unlike any other and combines all these different aspects. We have to be the best we can be and part of that is fostering talent and solving whatever gaps there are. Within GGW we have committees to address diversity in other areas or else it defeats the purpose – for instance, one that focuses on Tribal operators. Do we have programs that are helpful for different international markets? We’re looking at groups that feel underserved. 

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