To mark International Women’s Day 2022, we spoke with a number of leading female figures from across the betting and gaming industry to find out more about their careers, advice that they’d give to news starters and what more the industry can do to make sure diversity and inclusion ‘get a seat at the table’
CB: What attracted you to the online gambling industry in the first place?
Tereza Melicharkova, Head of Marketing at Swintt: I entered the gambling industry back in 2016 as Marketing and Events Coordinator for NetEnt. My background and previous experience were in conferences and events, so it was the perfect role from a skills perspective.
But the industry also seemed vibrant and entertaining, and this was a major factor in my decision to join NetEnt when I was offered the role.
It has turned out to absolutely be the right decision and over the past six years, I have enjoyed a number of roles with various game developers before joining Swintt as Head of Marketing in June last year.
Josefin Uppeke, Head of Creative and Game Designer at Lucksome: It all started with having a lot of friends already working in the industry, they all spoke very highly about it. I’m a creative person and I saw the possibility to use that in the gambling industry.
When I started there were not many game designers as there is today, so I saw it as a good opportunity to learn and really make an impact. The gambling industry is very dynamic and changes all the time which makes it interesting and exciting to be part of it.
Leila Goelz, Chief People and Transformation Officer at Games Global: I’ve been involved with the igaming industry for more than 10 years now and love that it’s a very creative and fast paced environment. It’s ever-changing, always inventive and I find that there is never a lack of something to positively challenge you. There really is never a dull moment.
The beauty of this industry is the mix of individuals I have the privilege to collaborate with on a daily basis. I could be speaking with mathematicians, developers, artists and sound designers one minute and the next be interacting with data scientists and my fellow people team. With such varying skill sets, it’s imperative we all support one another. Teamwork really is at the heart of success, and I’m very grateful to collaborate with such a diverse group of people.
Emma Clayton-Wright, Founder of EyeSpy Recruitment: I never had any real intention of getting into gaming and essentially it was a really happy accident. I was travelling around the south of Spain when my campervan broke down in Tarifa. I then found my way to Gibraltar where I interviewed for a job at Party Gaming as an internal recruiter. Incredibly, this was 18 years ago! Three years later EyeSpy Recruitment was born and I’ve never looked back.
CB: What has been your experience of the industry to date?
TM: Since entering the industry, I have held senior marketing roles at companies such as NetEnt, Pragmatic Play, Relax Gaming and Pariplay. My role as Head of Marketing at Swintt is my biggest to date, and I am responsible for supporting the commercial team through a range of marketing activities. Ultimately, it is down to me and my team to drive awareness of Swintt across the igaming industry and beyond.
During my time in the industry, I have found it to be one that is becoming increasingly diverse and equal. I am a good example of how it is possible for women to enter the sector without industry experience and climb the ladder to secure senior roles in some of the biggest businesses.
Of course, more can always be done when it comes to diversity and equality, but my experience has been incredibly positive and I don’t think I would have been able to progress in the same in any other industry as I have in this one.
JU: I must say I always felt very welcomed in any company I have worked for in the industry, so I would say it has been a very good experience overall. I would say that people have a lot of respect for each other, and I don’t see it as a very hostile industry where people are behaving badly.
It’s also a great industry to evolve your expertise and skills, to become better at what you do. If you work hard and prove yourself, always have an interest to learn and be better, you will be rewarded.
LG: I’ve been fortunate enough to work closely with some extraordinary people throughout my career within the igaming industry. I’ve had amazing mentors who have truly inspired me. My career has always been focused on people and how to get the best out of them no matter what their background may be. I love to see people shine and transform into who they aspire to be.
I’ve seen stereotypes and bias being broken down over the years, across all facets of business. International Women’s Day is a great moment to take stock of the remaining barriers of inclusion to try and remove them. We as an industry, and as a world, are better when diversity and inclusion all have a place at the table.
ECW: I absolutely love it. I have always found it to be a progressive, inclusive, diverse and international working environment that offers opportunities that other industries simply do not.
I have worked across a wide range of sectors, from tech to crypto to retail, and none of them provides the fast-paced excitement and high levels of innovation and progression that gaming does. In this industry, a determined professional can achieve a great deal in a short space of time and that makes it as appealing as it does unique.
CB: Could you share a particular highlight?
TM: One of my biggest highlights to date is a boxing event I organised for Relax Gaming a couple of years ago which brought together both operators and suppliers. It was an event to celebrate all collaborations made via Relax’s platform and also to promote two game launches in cooperation with the Buffer brothers. The event took place at the Westin Dragonara hotel and welcomed over 500 guests.
Of course, joining Swintt as Head of Marketing is probably my greatest achievement and is certainly the role I am most proud to have worked in. Swintt is not only pushing boundaries when it comes to the games that it develops and launches, but also in terms of company culture and its approach to diversity and equality. It is a business I feel honoured to be a part of.
JU: I think one of my highlights of my career was in my first industry job at Yggdrasil, and I worked with a very experienced game designer that became my mentor for many years. I remember we sat in a conference room many hours per day, and he went through game concepts and mechanics with me, and it was just a joy to listen to. I had so many “aha!” moments during this time, that really is something I still carry with me and something that really changed how I look at games and game design.
LG: My biggest career highlight is becoming Chief People and Transformation Officer at Games Global late last year – what an honour! Games Global was born from a drive to deliver world-class products and services, to push innovations past the boundaries of perceived limitations and to make a serious industry impact.
To be here at the onset of our burgeoning era is so exciting and I’m delighted about the opportunities ahead for both our products and our people.
Our goal is to make everyone a winner – regardless of gender. We’re authentic and bold, and together we support each other in getting better every single day, determined to make a difference to the industry.
ECW: EyeSpy Recruitment has been on a brilliant journey, starting out as a small unsure business that Jo and I founded in our early 30s to being a leading provider of talent to some of the biggest and most exciting businesses in the industry today.
I am incredibly proud of what we have achieved and the reputation we have earned for our knowledge of the sector and the specific recruitment needs of all the businesses that serve it. That we continue to develop and grow keeps my passion for the business burning and I look forward to enjoying even more highlights this year and beyond.
CB: Do you believe the industry is doing enough when it comes to diversity?
TM : We just need to make sure that talented and skilled females – of which there are many – understand that there are huge opportunities available to them within the igaming industry. The push for greater responsibility and sustainability within the sector is certainly helping to improve the perception among those outside the industry, and I think this will really help to draw in more amazing female candidates.
JU: From my perspective, I think women working in gaming has gained momentum as a movement, but needs more growth, involving more women and more awareness across the industry. We are definitely improving, but I think we all can make a difference by talking more openly about it.
Creating awareness that this industry is dynamic and so all companies need diversity in their teams to create more interesting and innovative products to win. I never felt afraid being a woman in this industry, as I felt I had something different to bring to the table and this is something I would hope more women would feel as well.
LG: There have been huge developments and advancements within the industry over the past few years, but there is still more that can be done to progress inclusivity and diversity.
At Games Global, three out of our seven members of our senior leadership team are female and I’m honoured to be part of that. I was fortunate in my early career – and even still to this day – to have had great inspirational and empowering mentors, spurring me to offer the same as a leader. But I know that this is sadly not always the case.
The iGaming industry is very male-dominated and succeeding as a female can have its tough moments. Fortunately, the times are changing and companies can no longer rely on old ways of doing business. It’s a modern and ever-evolving industry – there’s no time to be stuck in your ways. Mindsets have and will continue to change and it’s amazing to see so many more women in leadership positions – it shows we’re on the right path.
ECW: In my experience, the best person always gets hired regardless of their gender, sexuality or ethnicity. This is an industry where companies have to onboard the best talent in order to succeed and that ultimately requires a diverse workforce. I believe the industry is sensitive to equality and is supportive of diversity, but it is my role to help with this and to ensure the best candidate is the one that is put forward for – and awarded – the role.
CB: What more could be done to attract additional female talent to the industry?
TM: We just need to make sure that talented and skilled females – of which there are many – understand that there are huge opportunities available to them within the igaming industry. The push for greater responsibility and sustainability within the sector is certainly helping to improve the perception among those outside the industry, and I think this will really help to draw in more amazing female candidates.
JU: Women inspiring other women is key, but this applies to everyone, people should inspire other people, gender shouldn’t come into it. Organising more events where everyone speaks about experiences, both good and bad, so it feels genuine and authentic.
This really helps to convey the bigger picture; being what diversity can do a team, a workplace, and the industry as a whole. Being more open as women, about our roles and what we do is a great way to attract more women.
As a games designer for example, I have different views on aesthetics, player needs and desires than my male colleagues. This leads to more diverse game design, different experiences, and of course better products.
LG: It’s important to let women know they have a seat, and more importantly, a valued voice at the table. This can be done by mentoring young professionals, ensuring they feel inspired and focused, and respecting their contribution and value.
Having a mentor challenge and push you farther than you thought you could ever go is an amazing feeling, and one that I hope all young women in our industry get to experience. Empowering each other ensures that the best innovations and ideas get to come to fruition. Women currently in the industry need to be sure to empower and support other women. And when that happens, we all win.
ECW: It really comes down to attracting the best talent to the industry and that means driving awareness among graduates and those seeking employment that this is a sector that has a lot to offer – more than most others, in fact.
We know that we are competing with other industries, so we need to do more to showcase the gaming sector as one that is sustainable and diverse and where an international career is readily available for those with the right skills and drive.
CB: What would you say to other females considering entering the gambling industry?
TM: Just do it! This industry gives me the chance to learn and experience something new every day and it is a great environment to work in. I have never looked back on my decision to move into the gambling sector and can see myself having a long and enjoyable career in the industry and of course with Swintt.
JU: I would just say, take a chance and make the best out of it. If you don’t challenge yourself, you will never know what you’ve been missing and what you’re capable of doing. Talk to other women in gaming to understand what the industry is about and understand it’s not only an industry for men, after all many players out there are women! Believe in yourself, keep on being awesome and throw kindness around you like it’s confetti!
LG: I would tell all women entering the industry that they can change the future – they can stand up and be fearless and share their ideas. I would say to be bold. To seek out mentors who inspire and support growth, who are invested in their careers and value their contributions.
Passion is a cornerstone of our industry and if you can bring that fire and energy into the office, then you will go as far as you believe.
I fervently hope that more women feel inspired and included in the tech world. We need to change the rhetoric of women ‘breaking in’ to an industry as if they don’t belong, as if it’s something unique. Women belong in every corner of industry; intently and concertedly raising the standards for inclusivity.
ECW: Just go for it. The gaming industry offers huge opportunities for all skill sets, regardless of gender, sexuality and race. This is a sector where talent can really shine, so just be confident and come and join the rest of us in what has been a thrill ride of a career for myself and the candidates that EyeSpy Recruitment has placed over the years.