All-in Diversity: Straight shooting on Equality & Diversity as industry disciplines

Founded in 2017, the All-in Diversity Project is an industry-driven initiative seeking to benchmark diversity, equality and inclusion for the global betting and gaming sectors.

SBC speaks to founding partners Kelly Kehn and Christina Thakor Rankin on how equality and diversity should be treated as new industry dynamics. Competing in an evolving global marketplace, can betting/gaming create inclusive operating frameworks appealing to modern workforces… The stakes are high for industry players!

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Kelly Kehn

SBC:  2018 is a year of systemic change for the betting industry, as it faces increased regulatory demands, advertising restrictions combined with operational changes of its data and AML disciplines. Under this context, why do industry leaders need to drive a diversity/equality agenda in 2018?

Kelly Kehn: Those systematic changes you mention all involve restriction and regulation. Diversity & Inclusion as an organisational shift is very much the opposite and I’d like to be quite clear about that. We should be looking at D&I as a movement to become less restrictive with the way we hire, retain and promote talent within our organisations. This is not about one particular underserved group, this about recognising the cultural biases, understanding how those biases put us at a disadvantage and changing the way we operate to ensure we have access to the best talent globally. I think we all inherently know that new ideas, experiences and perspectives are good for business. However, research into diverse and inclusive organisations is now actively proving that statement. Businesses with a diverse workforce outperform their competitors who aren’t racially and gender diverse.

Christina Thakor Rankin: For me, it’s as much about pragmatism as it is about ethics. We are about to see a huge generational shift which will see the millennials make up 50% of the workforce by 2020. These are the next generation of leaders and for them; diversity, equality and inclusion will be an expectation, not an aspiration. If we want to attract these people as future leaders we firstly need to attract them as new entrants and middle managers.

Do we really think that as stakeholders we are in a place to attract talent and resources who want to work in a sector which shares their ethics and values, or do we need to do some work to improve matters?

SBC: In your opinion is diversity the domain of industry governance, leadership, HR etc… Does diversity have to be allocated as a corporate responsibility in order to be effective for betting organisations? Furthermore is ownership of the subject matter important?

KK: Diversity & Inclusion affects every aspect of a business so limiting the scope or domain to HR, Corp. Governance etc. does a business organisation a deep disservice.

To your question, “Is ownership of the subject matter important?”, I’d say yes. D&I is about a cultural shift and the responsibility for change will sit with those leaders responsible for setting a business’s culture, vision and ethics. However, everyone within an organisation needs to play a role and support that shift.

CTR: Someone at the top taking ownership is a great start, but a checklist or telling someone what is and isn’t acceptable doesn’t eliminate the prejudices that sit behind discrimination – they just mask it. As a result, this needs to be as much bottom up as it does top down. It’s about education, acceptance and the understanding that it’s the inside that matters – the skills, the experience, the insight and the knowledge, not which bathroom they use, which god they worship or whether they have the ‘normal’ number   of arms and legs.

SBC: Diversity is a broad subject matter, which can be easily sidetracked. For All-in, how do you create initial corporate frameworks and best practices, that can be inclusive and understood by all industry employees? 

KK: Like any business strategy or transformation, you must have valid and measurable benchmarks in place to measure success. Why would any business invest in anything if they couldn’t measure the ROI? At All-in Diversity Project, we believe the tools for success will come in the form of data, industry benchmarks and transparency. This is not about men vs. women, trying to force empathy or dumbing anything down. This is about stopping the assumptions, holding the mirror up, taking a sober look at where we now and setting targets for progress. We do it with every other business strategy but historically we’ve been blinded by our lack of data on the subject of D&I. Our All-Index is a global industry standard index measuring progress for diversity and inclusion. It will provide a report on annual progress and make recommendations in various areas such as corporate governance, employment policies, recruitment practices, unconscious bias and marketing.

CTR: I would add that leadership has to begin to look to understand cultural, gender and generational complexities within their workforces.  Measuring inclusivity is not an easy undertaking for any corporation regardless of resources available, however, it is a dynamic/discipline that has to be tackled in order to create effective future enterprises.  

Christina Thakor Rankin

SBC: You are currently advising a number of industry leaders on workplace diversity and equal opportunity. From a leadership perspective, what is the underlining fear of the betting sector not addressing/tackling this current concern… What will we lose as a sector if we fail on equality and diversity matters? 

CTR: Unless we start to change now betting and gambling as we know it will become something we used to do. We already know that millennials have no interest in some of the traditional forms of gambling. What we don’t know is what the next generation of products needs to look like. The only people who can tell us is the next generation of players and to get this information we need to get them engaging with us and into our businesses.

KK: I agree with Tina 100%. We formed AIDP because we deeply care about this industry and want to see it succeed. I don’t think I’d go as far as saying that if we fail, we won’t have an industry, but I’d venture to say that not adapting means we’ll continue to recycle the same talent and aging customers, continue ignoring our image problem, stop innovating and eventually be decades (instead of years) behind the rest of the world in terms of our ability to recruit top talent.

SBC:  From your perspective, how can diversity improve or revive the sector’s stagnant talent pool, a deep concern for many stakeholders?

 KK: By way of real-world example, in 1952, the Boston Symphony was looking to diversify their all-male orchestra. They implemented blind auditions in order to ensure a purely merit-based choice of talent and hopefully increase the number of women selected. The result was 50% of those making it through this audition were women. Today, most symphony orchestras have blind auditions as part of their standard practice, and the industry boasts 44% women to men ratio. Music critics would also argue that today symphonies have a better product meaning they actually sound better.

As I mentioned earlier, diversity is about removing restrictions that companies have an opening up to the best talent possible. Just placing the words “Must have betting/gambling experience” or “Betting/Gambling experience preferred” on a job description keeps us stagnant, and it happens on just about every description I read today. No one studies gambling at Uni although I was asked to teach a graduate class on “sports maths” one time! 😉 But this is a great industry to work in and we need to promote it as such. Part of D&I initiatives should recognise simple areas like how we are marketing our open roles, what CVs we are shortlisting and why and if we are actively looking for outside experience.

 CTR: By mirroring the world at large in our individual businesses we get to replicate our customer base and from there understand what appeals, to who, and why. We can only do this is our internal teams genuinely reflect the outside world in terms of gender, ethnicity, age and different abilities – where are the products for differently abled players?

 SBC: Finally, as one of the younger industry bodies, how do you gauge success on diversity and equal opportunity, which unlike other industry disciplines can’t be necessarily measured? What should be deemed as success in a non-binary issue?

CTR: That’s easy. We set a benchmark and then measure ourselves and our profitability against it. The All-Index seeks to set a global benchmark for diversity, equality and inclusion. By running the Index annually we can see where we got better and how this relates to commercial performance.

KK: It can be measured and up until now, we’ve been blinded by our lack of data. As Tina states, that’s where AIDP is carving our place in the universe. We believe that data, transparency and benchmarking is the way toward progress.

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Kelly Kehn & Christina Thakor Rankin – Founding Partners – All-in Diversity Project

The Betting industry’s future enterprise and operational context will be discussed at the upcoming ‘Betting on Sports Conference’ (#boscon2018 – Olympia London-18-20 September 2018). Click on the below banner for more information…