It’s no secret that the gambling sector lags many others on gender diversity – but there is also time for a change, which is why we’re proud to introduce a Manifesto for Diversity which will support our partnership with the All-In Diversity Project.

Both these initiatives focus on gender, not because this is any more important than other aspects of diversity, but because companies in the gambling sector have made significantly less progress bringing women into their senior leadership than other industries, and this issue is now firmly under a spotlight.

A more equal gender balance in the workforce is not only the right thing to do, it has also been shown to improve a company's financial performance, and – as in the financial services sector – balance attitudes to risk, which is also of benefit to organisations. Yet many gambling companies overlook the importance of gender diversity in the workplace, largely because historically most of their customers have been male.  

In addition, wider societal attitudes are shifting against companies which fail to address diversity – not only on gender but also sexuality, background and race. Gambling already has its critics; being seen as a laggard on diversity is something it can do without.

Meantime there is growing pressure. The government is backing a new, more in-depth assessment of companies’ progress in appointing women – this time not only looking at executive and board roles but those below as well. The recent Hampton-Alexander review aims to encourage companies to work harder to develop and retain talented women and is looking harder at businesses beyond the FTSE 100.

Odgers Berndtson did its own quick analysis of progress on gender diversity in the UK gambling sector earlier this month. Looking at six leading companies, we found that women account for only 16% of all board members– below the average of around 20% for FTSE 250 companies and 26% for companies in the FTSE 100. Even among recent appointments since 2015, women still only account for 19% of appointments across the companies in our analysis.

We believe the under-representation of women on boards at publicly-quoted gambling companies is symptomatic of wider under-representation throughout the sector – which is often significantly worse at an executive and senior management levels.  And we would like to help bring about change.

So we have decided to launch our own Manifesto for Change, aiming to do what we can as a practice to bring more women into gambling at all levels. In particular, we’d like to encourage companies to adopt best practice from other sectors and be more open to talent from outside the sector.

At the same time, Odgers Berndtson is partnering the All-In Diversity Project, which shares our goal of promoting gender diversity in gambling. All-In seeks greater transparency on appointments and is encouraging private and publicly-quoted companies across the global gambling industry to provide data.

We practice what we preach. At Odgers Berndtson the Gaming practice has equal numbers of men and women and, across our broader UK business, 40% of Odgers Berndtson’s partners are female. The firm is top-ranked for its performance over the past year in placing women on FTSE 350 boards, with women making up around 40% of our short-lists and three-fifths of all board appointments we have overseen.

In the gambling sector, the challenge of appointing women is particularly tough because numbers coming in at lower levels are already very small and too many companies insist on sector experience, which as we highlighted before is predominated by men. So we need to work closely with clients, encouraging them to attract, develop and keep more women at all levels to create a more outward-facing and open culture.

Ultimately, real change requires a firm commitment from employers – though of course, we aim to facilitate progress. Our Manifesto for Diversity in Gambling will:

  • Challenge clients to think more laterally about new hires and look cross-sector. This has been proven to promote diversity in other sectors in which the firm operates, such as government, where 62% of Odgers Berndtson’s new appointments are now from outside the sector;

  • Support clients in the industry on specific appointments to ensure their message to the market and all associated documentation is gender neutral and fully supports best practice for women and all diversity candidates;

  • Proactively identify and support the development of talented women within gaming and related sectors, to help develop a stronger pipeline of female talent. The firm is already working more closely on this with other practices across the Odgers Berndtson group internationally;

  • Work towards increasing numbers of women on shortlists whilst recognising that gambling is currently some way behind other sectors;

  • Act in partnership with the All-In Diversity Project to encourage greater transparency from clients on gender and other aspects of diversity.

In line with these commitments, Odgers Berndtson will be hosting events with key executives in the gambling industry to support diversity in the sector over coming months – we’d very much like to see you at one of these or help in any other way we can.

Find out more on Odgers Berndtson's diversity commitment

Andrew Bulloss

Andrew specialises in executive search for organisations recruiting directors, senior executive, C-level and non-executive directors in the international gaming and gambling industries. He is the p...



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