Last month, leaders from the gaming industry gathered for the first-ever conference specifically for women in the industry. More than 100 professionals attended the event, an indication both of the great strides women have made in the gaming industry over the past several years, and the fact that there is still work to be done to create even more senior-level opportunities for women in our business.
Not surprisingly, diversity was a focal point of the conference, with participants abuzz about the continued advancement of women and minorities in our society and what it means for the gaming industry.
One need only look at the halls of Congress to see that great strides are being made for women and minorities in leadership positions in this country. There currently are 16 female senators and 71 women in the U.S. House of Representatives. Of the 54 new members elected to the House, 10 are women. In addition to Nancy Pelosi’s historic new role as Speaker of the House, the Democratic control of congress also means that minorities are better positioned on the Hill than ever before. In fact, seven major congressional committees are now chaired by a minority member.
How does diversity fit into a discussion of gaming? The business case for diversity in our industry is simple: to succeed in business, our operations must reflect our customer base.
So, what does the customer base for the U.S. commercial casino industry look like? According to the most recent U.S. census, one in four Americans today is a minority. Minority population growth also dwarfs that of the overall population: while the overall population grew just more than 13 percent from 1990 to 2000, the U.S. African American population grew by 16 percent, Hispanics by 57 percent and Asian-Americans by 50 percent. Combined, these three groups now represent more than a quarter of the total population in this country. In fact, 48 percent of American cities already have a population in which the majority of residents are minorities. Experts project that by 2010, one in three people in this country will be a minority.
This tremendous population growth equates to a dramatic shift in purchasing power. According to a 2003 study, African Americans currently have purchasing power nearing $700 billion, a figure set to bloom to more than $900 million by 2008. Hispanics currently spend more than $650 billion annually, a figure expected to climb to more than $1 trillion by next year. The trend continues for other minority populations as well.
Women also represent a tremendous growth market, representing $4 trillion in purchasing power per year and the fastest growing entrepreneurial segment in the country. Nearly one-third of women have a household income greater than $100,000 per year, and women control more than 51 percent of total U.S. personal wealth. They also are the fastest growing segment of the business travel market.
Gaming companies’ responses to these changes and opportunities must be well considered, with diversity initiatives carefully integrated into every aspect of their business. Too often, diversity is viewed as a “special issue,” but it needs to be treated as a business imperative. Those who successfully address diversity issues will find they have gained a competitive advantage in the marketplace.
The gaming industry has made significant strides on diversity issues, most visibly in its strong record of cultivating a diverse workforce. According to the results of a 2003 Gaming Industry Diversity Snapshot, commercial casinos employ a higher percentage of minorities than the overall U.S. workforce (by 17.4 percentage points), even when service workers are not taken into account. Compared to other businesses in their states and nationwide, the industry also employs a higher percentage of black, Hispanic and female executives.
The 2003 study was conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), with direction from the American Gaming Association’s Diversity Task Force, which includes representatives from human resources, legal, public affairs, purchasing, contracting, community relations, government affairs and related disciplines and is charged with making diversity a business imperative throughout the industry. The task force plans to work with PwC to update the Diversity Snapshot this year, including a new analysis of industry employee education levels, which will provide a clearer picture of how many gaming industry employees currently hold college and graduate degrees.
The task force also is making strides in the area of procurement diversity. Late last year, the AGA and participating member companies announced a new Tier II Diversity Reporting program, which requires industry suppliers to submit quarterly reports detailing the amount of business they contract with minority-, women-, and disadvantaged-owned enterprises (MWDBEs). The program aims to ensure that the industry’s biggest suppliers share our commitment to diversity in their procurement and contracting practices.
Additionally, the task force and PwC will this year work to complete a baseline study of industry diversity spend in procurement activities, the first study of its kind for our industry. The task force also plans to develop a database of the top 50 diverse suppliers to the commercial casino industry, making the list available to AGA member companies to further the opportunities for MWDBEs with a track-record of success in the gaming industry.
The task force also is expanding its efforts to include the contracting arena, establishing a special subcommittee to investigate potential programs for enhancing diversity in construction and other aspects of this business function.
The gaming industry, as a whole, is at the forefront of many diversity issues, and a significant number of gaming companies’ diversity initiatives are among the best and most recognized in the country. However, we cannot afford to rest on our laurels. We must continue this trend and maintain the industry’s leadership role. Diversity drives the gaming industry and must be a focus of all levels of our business, from recruitment, succession, planning and purchasing to construction, community relations and corporate giving. Society and our customers demand it.