Browse articles by topic

Where there’s a WILL

Insight | Analysis

While many women have struggled to smash through the glass ceiling, there are more CEOs in lotteries than many other industries. Joanne Christie reports on an initiative aimed at improving the numbers even further

The problem of the lack of women making it to the highest levels of business has been well documented in recent years, with survey after survey showing that women face a number of hurdles climbing the corporate ladder.Although World Bank figures show that women make up almost half of the workforce, they make up a much lower percentage at the highest levels of industry. Research by Grant Thornton published earlier this year found that women held just 29% of senior management roles globally.

Worryingly, this figure has increased by only 10 percentage points in the 15 years the accounting firm has been reporting on the topic, so while efforts are undoubtedly being made to address the issue, progress has been slow.

At the very highest levels of business, the picture is even worse. According to research by Catalyst, women hold just 6.4% of CEO positions at S&P 500 companies. On the other side of the pond, there are only five female CEOs in the FTSE 100.

When viewed against such unencouraging statistics, the lottery industry would appear to be outperforming by some way. Of the more than 170 CEOs heading up regulated lotteries, 33 are women, according to research carried out by the Women’s Initiative in Lottery Leadership (WILL).

In addition, women hold some of the top jobs in lottery associations. In October, the World Lottery Association (WLA) re-elected Rebecca Hargrove, who became its first female president in 2018, for a second term. And in August, the North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries (NASPL) announced that for the first time, all of its officers were women.

More work to be done

But there’s still some way to go until we achieve true gender parity in the lottery industry, says Hargrove, who is also president and CEO of the Tennessee Education Lottery.

For this reason, in late 2016 Hargrove assembled a group of female leaders from the business—including two of iGB’s Most Influential Women 2020, Stéphane Pallez of FDJ and Sue van der Merwe of Tabcorp—to brainstorm ideas on how to improve the opportunities for women to advance in the lottery business.

The result was the formation of WILL, of which Hargrove is chair. The main goal of the organization, administered by Public Gaming Research Institute (PGRI), is to help women progress in the business, which it does by providing training seminars and workshops, networking opportunities and one-to-one mentoring programs.

The first US mentoring program was set up in Nashville, Tennessee, in mid-2017, with mentors including high-level executives such as Scientific Games’ lottery chair Jim Kennedy and Jennifer Westbury, executive vice-president of sales and marketing at Pollard Banknote.

In May last year, Pallez, who leads WILL’s efforts in Europe, announced a pilot program for a mentorship scheme in Europe. And plans are also underway for a formal scheme in Africa, says Hargrove.

Interestingly, however, it is not actually in her own area of the lottery business that Hargrove views the initiative’s activities as being the most necessary.

“I think lotteries on the government side have an exemplary record. I became a lottery director 35 years ago and there were two women in CEO positions and today there are more than 30 so that is a huge step forward,” she says. “I’ve run four lotteries over 35 years and they have all had an outstanding record in terms of [employing] both people of color and women at the highest levels.”

In fact, she says her own experience allowed her to recognize the benefits of diversity first-hand. “In my own organizations I believe diversity and inclusion made my organizations stronger,” she says. “If you’ve got a diverse set of minds, you get a diverse set of opinions, you get the best solutions to whatever the question may be and at the end of the day, you have a better corporation, so it is good for everybody.”

Partners falling behind

However, she says WILL identified that this thinking had not made its way into the commercial side of the lottery business, where there is a more pronounced lack of diversity at the top.

“On the government side, there were a number of us who were women who had risen to the top, but that had never happened on the commercial side, with the large platinum contributors to our organizations,” she explains.

“There are four or five dominant players in our industry—from IGT to Scientific Games to Intralot, Pollard Banknote and SkilRock—that do 80-90% of the business on the government side without female leadership at the top.”

Given their importance to such firms, lotteries would appear to have a substantial amount of collective bargaining power to push for change in this area. “When their customers get together and say we think diversity is important to us and we look for diversity with our partners, that makes it a little bit easier,” says Hargrove.

However, as well as pushing them to change, she says WILL is also focusing on making sure it is directly contributing to providing opportunities for women in these businesses. “What’s important is the mentoring and the training of the high-level executives within the companies, so that if and when they ever get the opportunity, they understand the things that men have learned all along the way from their mentors who proceeded them, so part of what we are trying to do is be mentors.”

Of course, women also need to be given those opportunities and historically this has often not been the case, says Hargrove.

“People tend to hire people who look like them, so if all of the leadership of a company are white males, then they hire for their subordinates white males, people who belong to their country clubs or play golf with them or who they know in a social setting. They have gotten to know them better maybe than some of the strong women who are in an organization.

“That’s just a pattern that has been continuing for centuries and it is time to shake that up and give women the opportunity to get to know some of the top echelon. Even though they may be at the next rung down, they are ready and we are ready to try and help them.”

‘Buy in at all levels’

But while WILL’s mission may be to help women progress, it recognizes the need to involve men in the process and three of its 10 current board members are men.

“I’ve had mostly male mentors because there weren’t females in positions of power then. There just weren’t women to help mentor us, so certainly most of the women my age who have had mentors they have been men and they have been wonderful mentors,” says Hargrove. “It is important to have buy in at all levels of leadership within the corporations.”

Despite WILL being a young organization, Hargrove believes it is already having an impact, citing the recent NASPLA announcement and her appointment as WLA president, with Lynne Roiter of Loto-Québec also having a leading role as secretary general, as encouraging developments on the association front.

On the commercial side she has also seen improvements: “Two of [the companies] have started their own inclusion and diversity programmes in their organizations. And a third one offered a female the CEO slot for their company in North America. She said no, but they offered her the job, that’s important.”

And the repeal of PASPA has brought even more opportunities for the lottery industry’s female leaders, as lotteries are increasingly being charged with overseeing sports betting in their states.

Hargrove’s own lottery in Tennessee now regulates sports betting, with its mobile-only offering going live at the beginning of November. Early indications were promising, with punters wagering $27.4m in the first week alone.

In Montana and Washington DC sports betting also comes under the purview of the state lotteries, with these states also headed up by female leaders, the former by Angela Wong and the latter by Beth Bresnahan.

It would therefore seem possible that over time, WILL’s efforts could lead to greater gender parity not only in the lottery industry, but also in the wider gaming industry