There is probably a joke to make about how unicorns are as rare as women leaders in gaming. Yet GeoComply is both a unicorn and a woman-led company. With a billion-dollar valuation, GeoComply has made itself central to the operations of just about every major US online gambling company, and it has done so with women at the heart of the equation.
“We really align a lot with women in gaming, women in tech in diversity because we like to identify ourselves with the values that align with those themes,” explained GeoComply SVP of Compliance Lindsay Slader. “We have a really robust intern program. The women that I talk to that come in our doors through that program, a lot of them are motivated to check out who we are and be part of our stories specifically because we have females in leadership roles, lots of women throughout our whole company, and somewhere that they finally feel like they can fit in and envision themselves and having a permanent role there.”
GeoComply is building women leaders to lead gaming’s future
The company has a very strict policy when it comes to hiring that teams need to be 50% female and no one is allowed to make excuses as to why that standard can’t be met. Like Wondr Nation’s Anika Howard, Slader acknowledged that not just gaming but tech, in general, can be very male-dominated, but that is not out of necessity. GeoComply’s stance on building up women is something Slader hopes doesn’t just make the company stronger but will improve the entire industry in the long run.
“We hope that the values that they’ve learned with us are going to motivate them to create their own company one day and they’ve already learned that you don’t need to be a guy to run a tech company women actually can do it a whole lot better.”
Online gaming companies are on the hunt for expertise and claim good talent is hard to find, but Slader expressed some frustration with how limited the searches for such expertise can feel. Moreover, she feels a certain amount of conflict about conference representation, where sometimes she knows she is being included to check a box as opposed to being the right person to speak on a topic.
Looking for expertise in all the wrong places
“When I think of the arguments about why conferences have the all-guy panel, the excuses are always ‘well, we couldn’t get a woman, so we just pulled together expertise and this is what we landed with. Five guys on the panel,” Slader said. “Sounds like you’re not looking hard enough, right? I can’t count the number of times I ended up on a panel where they’re like, we just want you because you’re the token girl. Which is insulting but also I would love to be the token girl because in the absence of that, it’s another all-guy panel and it helps change the expectation in the future.”
As someone who has been in gaming for more than a decade, Slader can still recall being in rooms where you could count the number of fellow women on one hand. This was an era where the thought of even having a token girl wasn’t top of mind for many people. So, while it can still be frustrating, she has seen how far women have come and is willing to do what she can to push their inclusion further.
Mandates from regulators in some jurisdictions are also doing what they can to push inclusivity. And the pushback from the industry sounds a lot the resistance to putting women on panels, which is something Slader has observed.
“I feel the same way about the challenges when you’re talking about finding specific vendors and certain partners to work with. If you’re talking about a specific type of company that’s providing a very narrow service or technology, there are absolutely industry limitations to how many companies you may have to choose from. But again, that can’t always be the excuse.”
The growth of online gaming is an opportunity to grow more diverse community
Diversity is about more than just race, class, and gender. Slader is someone who thinks a diversity of experiences is something the gambling industry could certainly use more of as it grows. The land-based gaming world has been so male-dominated and the rapid growth of online gambling and the new set of needs that comes with it is something Slader thinks can fully transform the industry and the types of people in it.
“If you need to bring in a new breed of people and new skill sets to address how our industry is evolving, that’s the perfect opportunity to inject more women and more diversity in your organization. If you’re already shopping for new people, go and find those people that we don’t have yet representing our industry,” she said. “Maybe this isn’t so much just a gender diversity scenario, but maybe even just the skill set scenario. As we hire young people that are just coming out of college the common theme that people will hear a lot from our interns, is this idea that ‘I never thought that I could work at a tech company because I’m a lawyer or I studied sociology, or whatever it might be’ and they thought that they had defined their career path to do something else.”
Many groups like DraftKings are already identifying as a tech company and not a gaming company, which helps the perception that applicants need to have gaming experience in order to get hired. Organizations are making strides to bring in new types of talent, but as an industry, bringing in a whole new company from outside of the gaming world is tough.
“I think the largest barrier to entry is for novel innovators, particularly those in tech,” Slader said. “You have to learn how to understand the integrity expectations and requirements of the industry or else you’re not going to be able to offer your services at the level of expectations that the government and the industry are going to require.”
Starting a business is tough. Starting one in a highly regulated industry is even tougher given the licensure and compliance involved. But as GeoComply has shown us, it can be incredibly fruitful to put in the effort not only from a profitability perspective but because you can be both a financial unicorn and a beacon of change regarding what a gaming company can be.