Moving away from gender stereotypes

23 January 2018

Exhibitors at gaming shows should let the creativity and innovation behind their products drive their show promotion too, says Clarion Gaming head of content Ewa Bakun

A little over a year ago, I posted a call to exhibitors on LinkedIn to change how women are represented at gaming shows.

One year on, with ICE 2018 upon us, I have renewed this call on the same forum, empowered and enthused by the many initiatives tackling gender disparity in the sector.

And by some good examples of stands that discarded a stereotypical, over sexualised promotions for a more inclusive and innovative representation of their brands at the show last year.

"Clarion Events, organisers of ICE London, are committed to ensuring a respectful representation of all sexes at the show. In the spirit of the 21st century when both men and women play strategic and decision-making roles in businesses, we encourage all our exhibitors to be mindful of how their support staff, promoting their products at the show, is represented to avoid any offense and stereotyping.” (from ICE Totally Gaming Exhibitor Manual)

ICE London is the world’s largest gambling tradeshow and its exhibitors often invest the majority of their marketing budgets to launch products, announce strategic moves, forge new partnerships and reinforce their brand power there.
It’s the ultimate festival of innovation, which also demonstrates itself through the effort put into the stand design and promotional activities.

We have had stands changing their set-up overnight, Batman automobiles, camels walking through the central boulevard, celebrity appearances, a CSI-style murder mystery campaign – the list goes on and no money is spared on impressing visitors and attracting them to stands.

We have also seen creativity in the choice and activities of promotional staff: pole dancers, cage fighters, body painted models are not a surprise appearance in the ICE aisles.

Luckily this is changing and I was really pleased last year at ICE to see both male and female promo staff in funky t-shirts, professionally dressed hosts and hostesses or, instead of human promo staff, crowd-drawing mini pigs.

Still, there is space for more creativity and out-of-the box thinking in that area to be shown by more than just a handful of exhibitors.

Last year’s post drew overwhelmingly positive feedback and comments on LinkedIn, but through various channels I know not everyone was happy with the message that, in their views, was taking the fun away and drastically changing the nature of the industry.

The point is the industry is changing and maturing, and so is its culture. In other words, the t-shirts are being replaced by suits and so it’s time tassels be replaced by suit jackets too.

What’s changing as well is the gender demographic of the workforce at all levels, including leadership, with many companies actually making an effort to hire more women and mentor their female staff to progress in career ranks.

That means that there are, and will be, more and more women making strategic and purchasing decisions, or looking to change jobs; women that ICE exhibitors will want to attract to their stands too – very much a reason to reconsider their promotion choices at the show.

And there are a multitude of other reasons to do that, from the changing image and need to be more socially responsible, to commercial benefits of having more diverse boards.

But during those three days at the show, the ultimate objective is to attract decision-makers to the stand.

The fact is, the prevailing majority of these decision-makers, are still male, but their views and expectations are changing too, as set out by the leadership of the European Casino Association (ECA) in the press release issued recently.

ECA chairman Per Jaldung stated: “It is imperative that our industry presents its positive image at ICE and other sector events. Our industry is modern and inclusive, and we call on exhibitors to showcase the great products and services they offer in a respectful manner that does not rely on outdated stereotypes.”

And our visitors to ICE are likely to hear a similar message from the departing CEO of the GB Gambling Commission who will be delivering the keynote at the Global Gaming Women afternoon session, part of the Diversity & Inclusion seminar on Wednesday at the show.

Indeed, the Gambling Commission has been vocal in encouraging the industry to be more inclusive and emphasising the benefits of diversity, as part of the sector’s need to strengthen its corporate governance.

The efforts of the exhibitors who excel in demonstrating their inclusive cultures through their stands and campaigns at ICE will be recognised in an initiative organised by All-In Diversity.

The change is coming from various directions, and I am looking forward to seeing it also exhibited during the three days of ICE London.