Women to Watch

Global Gaming Women changes to become more relevant

In the interest of full disclosure, I must preface this column by saying that Roger Gros has been a personal friend for over three decades and a strong supporter of Global Gaming Women since the group’s inception. His advocacy for our mission has helped us bring GGW to the attention of many of the women we want to help advance in the gaming industry.

So when Roger asked me to write the Global Gaming Women column for the January “People to Watch” edition of GGB, my first question was to ask him how many of the 25 highlighted professionals were women. His response was that there were five.

“Five is respectable,” I said. “But 10 would be better.” To which Roger responded, “I agree. So what should we do to make this happen in the future?”

A great question, and I expected nothing less. I am excited, therefore, as the chair of Global Gaming Women not only to help lead the discussion about future opportunities for women in gaming, but also to take this opportunity to highlight what our organization has accomplished over the past year to make this type of change happen.

In the five years since we launched GGW, we have delivered a wide variety of programming designed to help women in gaming connect with each other, and to provide educational opportunities through seminars and workshops, networking and leadership events and scholarships.

Early last year, we undertook a strategic review process with the American Gaming Association to ascertain which initiatives were achieving the desired impact, and what we could revise or add to be even more successful. That review process led to a change in the GGW organizational structure, and a shift to more high-impact programming.

Although we are continuing to host global networking events and GGW-specific programs at trade shows like the Global Gaming Expo and Southern Gaming Summit, our strategic shift involved the development of more intensive programs that were designed to be more qualitative than quantitative. The results have exceeded even our high expectations.

In September, we provided scholarships for two dozen women who held director-level positions and above to attend the Global Gaming Women’s W Development Conference at Red Rock Casino Resort and Spa in Las Vegas. The inaugural event was designed to provide relevant business and leadership training over a three-day program for women in the industry seeking advancement opportunities.

The program sessions included emotional intelligence, casino finance, leadership development, strategic thinking and public speaking. The W conference provided the next generation of women leaders in gaming with the opportunities for enhanced technical skills, and the additional training and resources necessary to succeed in our fast-paced industry. The program also included an evening of “dine arounds” where the attendees were hosted for an intimate dinner gathering with senior women in gaming in order to provide even greater networking opportunities.

The response from the participants was outstanding, as evidenced by comments like this one, which we received from one of the program graduates: “From a personal standpoint, I feel much more confident than I did at the beginning of the conference. I know that I have something to bring to the table! I now have a support system of other amazing women, and that is the best feeling. It is a safe environment where you can really grow, learn and develop.”

Also in September, we held the inaugural Midwest Leadership Development Institute at Ameristar in Saint Charles, Missouri. Global Gaming Women provided scholarships for an additional 24 women at the manager level and above to attend a two-day educational summit to assess individual communications techniques, leadership styles, critical thinking skills and effective decision-making in the workplace. As part of the program, each woman developed her own action plan and commitment strategy to apply the skills and knowledge learned at the summit to their personal career goals.

Once again, the response from the women who attended clearly demonstrated the impact of the program. “There are not many times that I’ve described anything as a life-changing event, but it would be accurate to say that I feel that this conference was life-changing for me,” one wrote. “This session gave me the opportunity to take a step back and reflect on things that I had come to accept over the years.”

It became very clear to the Global Gaming Women leadership team that there is a demonstrated and unfulfilled need for these types of intensive and targeted programs to help advance women in gaming, and the decision was made not only to reallocate resources to provide them, but also to expand the regional programming so that women all over the country could participate.

In addition, it was determined that GGW would assist in the development of excellent programs like the full-day Women Leaders in Gaming Summit, produced, funded and hosted by the Iowa Gaming Association, working in conjunction with the gaming associations in other states.

To answer Roger’s original question, therefore, there is much that we can do to positively impact the future of women in gaming, certainly as evidenced by the progress we made in 2015. And the best is yet to come—we look forward to making some exciting announcements about major changes to Global Gaming Women early in 2016. Stay tuned!

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Virginia McDowell retired as president and CEO of Isle of Capri Casinos in April 2016, after a 35-year career in the gaming industry. She currently serves as president and board chair of Global Gaming Women.

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