Equality in over 100 years?

24 Feb 2017

Equality in over 100 years?

Established female leaders share their views on how the global workforce has been shaped by female leadership

Odgers Berndtson recently hosted a boardroom lunch that was aimed at female leaders in the broader Gaming, Gambling and Technology sectors.

Every industry has different consumers and one would think that the gaming industry is more male heavy. However, to this day, the gaming industry has nearly a 50/50 split on female vs male consumers. According to UKIE (the video games industry body) results, in the UK alone, 58% of players are male and 42% are female.

So why then, if the market is nearly equal, is the workplace not reflective of this?

Females on boards

In the executive search industry, we have seen a lot of progress for females on boards in the UK. As foreseen in most industries the percentage of women on boards has increased over the last few years. According to the Cranfield Female FTSE Board Report 2016, FTSE 100 boards are doing quite well with 45.5% women on the Diageo board and 42.9% on the Unilever board. In the Games, Gambling and Technology industries figures are not as good. Presently at Google 4 out of 17 board members are female and at Electronic Arts and PaddyPower Betfair, it's just 2 out of 10 board members.

Virginia Bottomley (Chairwoman of Odgers Berndtson’s Board and Chief Executive Practice) was recently quoted saying “Only five years ago, barely 10 per cent of FTSE 100 board directors were female, so, while it may feel slow, there has been progress. But more work is needed. It is increasingly important to identify those less obvious aspects of diversity, such as diversity of thought, perspective and experience”.

In the first instance, we must encourage younger female talent to promote themselves for board roles, even if they feel they may be entering a gentlemen’s only club.

Are Diversity Action Groups and Councils really necessary?

It’s very easy to fall into the trap of being a company “seen to do the right thing”. Diversity action groups are the main focus for large firms at the moment, where internal teams come together to discuss how to make their business more diverse. But are they really doing any good?

A couple of big consulting firms such as Ernst & Young and KPMG have been making a big difference on the diversity front. Stephen R. Howe Jr., of EY Americas, was quoted saying “EY’s culture of inclusion has been the catalyst of our success and holds such promise for our future. When our teams are both diverse and inclusive, we deliver exceptional client service and we provide the best experiences for our people.”

According to Lenora Billings-Harris “Diversity councils provide insight and information that’s reflected in the organisation and beyond, and they are a sounding board that managers can engage to accelerate the advancement of inclusion and diversity efforts.” It’s important that if businesses are going down the “diversity council” route, they are very clear about what they want to achieve.

The impact that executive search firms can have on diversity at the highest level in the workforce is significant. Through detailed knowledge of the market, we have the opportunity and responsibility to shape challenging industries, such as the gaming, gambling and technology sector, by presenting broad longlists and encouraging diverse selection on shortlists with candidates that may not fit the profile that our clients may expect but who will nonetheless excel in the role.

Encouraging female role models

It is important for females looking to be successful in work to look to others for guidance and inspiration even if there is a very fine line between a successful role model and a harmful one.

Two very prominent female role models in Technology are Sheryl Sandberg (COO of Facebook) and Marissa Meyer (CEO of Yahoo). These two women raised questions about the extent to which talented women, with ambitious career aspirations, should utilise maternity leave allowances and flexible working opportunities or not, as they both returned to work within a month of commencing their leave period.

However, there are others.  Martha Lane Fox (lastminute.com) has had to have a lot of time off work in the past, and this has not toppled her success. Martha who has just had surrogate twins suffered severe injuries in a car crash in 2004. She took plenty of time out of work to recover from her injuries and nearly 10 years later she became the youngest female member of the House of Lords.

Role models and mentors can play an important part in the work place. Encouraging aspirational females to seek advice from female leaders, often in the form of an informal conversation, is a good way to drive people into these industries.

Women vs Men

It’s very common in our line of work for us to interview a woman and for them to be overly modest about their experience and achievements. So why aren’t successful female leaders promoting themselves as much as their male peers? 

According to an article by Wired, a recent study has shown that women repeatedly talk down their achievements and undervalue themselves when working in a successful group alongside men. Michelle Haynes of the University of Massachusetts, Lowell states that this is likely to hinder their career progression altogether.

The article by Wired sums this up nicely by saying that "Not only must women contend with the negative views others hold of their competence in traditionally male domains, but they also have to contend with their own negative self-views”. If these industries don’t do something to change this male mentality of the “growth hacker”, “work hard, play hard” environment they will inevitably end up becoming more like traditional “trading floors” all over again.


According to recent articles by the World Economic Forum, with the current rate of progress, it will take over 100 years to close the gender gap in work, and from 2015 to 2016 this timescale has lengthened considerably.

The gaming, gambling and technology industries could be broadly categorised as further behind others on equality at the leadership level. But it’s not all doom and gloom. There have been serious improvements in equality in workforces over the last couple of years and we need to continue encouraging people to make it better.

Our advice is that businesses need to think about treating their employees as individuals and assessing their situations on a case by case basis. Adopting an environment that promotes equality and fair treatment will attract and retain more senior female talent.