I honestly can’t remember a time when I didn’t see myself as an engaged business leader. From my early years of managing paper routes, serving popcorn at the movie theater or sweltering in the hot sun in the Illinois cornfields to my current role running a global gaming company as the CEO of IGT, I have been inspired by a seemingly never-ending list of business challenges.
At the same time, I have been motivated by the satisfaction that comes from accomplishing things through the application of a little elbow grease and a lot of sweat equity.
My values and priorities have been shaped, like many of us, by the people in my life. Some of them you would probably call mentors, but many were just people who added a story, a perspective, or a solution along the way. From my grandmother (who was a woman ahead of her time) to a terrific high school teacher to an early co-worker, I have made it my personal objective to learn from those who pass through my little corner of the world every day.
Throughout my life I have experienced the very typical ups and downs that go with career growth. The ability to fall back on the advice and wisdom of others has been invaluable. I have learned a lot about myself, my strong points, and my “not so strong” points by being open to outside input and by making myself vulnerable.
I have found a source of personal and professional growth by embracing situations that are, for lack of a better word, uncomfortable. My grandmother always said, “Give ‘til it hurts.” I think I finally know what she meant! How on earth would a girl from small-town Illinois find her way to the top of the world’s largest gaming manufacturer? Only one way —with help, guidance and support from others.
I have been fortunate to be a part of a generation that has seen significant progress in the role women play in the world. I often reflect on my early career when I was frequently the only female in the room and when women were not in boardrooms, nor did they have the political or academic clout that they possess today. We have come a long way in a very short time, but there is much more to do.
The advances that have been made are hopefully inspiring and enlightening for an entirely new generation—one that will be responsible for continuing this momentum for both themselves and future generations. I have a vision of a day when we as women are truly recognized for the contributions that we make… a day where we can stand together with all leaders to make the world a better place.
The American Gaming Association initiative to build cohesion among women in our industry is a powerful addition to the great work the organization has championed over the years. The foundation of the AGA has always been focused around the “bringing together of disparate parties for a common cause.” Global Gaming Women is an extension of the AGA’s work that provides a forum for women in our industry to meet, share, learn, listen and influence as a group.
Women from all sectors of the industry have embraced this vision, and are utilizing the program to further themselves and their companies. We are already seeing a lot of positive energy and enthusiasm from all around the world, and we’re just getting started.
It has been a pleasure to watch Global Gaming Women launch and prosper due, in large part, to one of the industry’s greatest female leaders, Virginia McDowell, CEO of Isle of Capri Casinos. The next chapter of this program will be written by the many women who have invested their careers in gaming. It is up to us to leverage the strength of this important initiative. I encourage all of you to engage, interact and give back. Let’s make Global Gaming Women the standard by which other organizations are measured.
And if we do things the right way, just maybe, the vision of “equality” will become a reality. It is vital for us and for the gaming industry.
Here’s to what I hope is just the beginning of an amazing journey.