Few women in gaming leadership roles, study reveals

Twenty years ago, Valerie Murzl became Station Casinos’ first female executive to work in corporate offices.

Murzl said the male-dominated leadership welcomed her. But when she became pregnant later that year, she was reminded Las Vegas had a long way to go in bettering conditions for its working women.

“There was not one child care option that stayed open past 6 p.m.,” she said. “I thought ‘This is crazy. How can you be an executive in our industry and work the hours involved if you’re a woman with a child?’”

Fast forward to 2017, and Murzl says she’s seen some important improvements. Many casino companies have opened in-house child care facilities for employees and have created private spaces for breast-feeding.

But a study published this month shows the industry has to do more to reach gender equality.

Women of Diversity Productions, a local nonprofit group, came to the conclusion after spending the past eight months surveying and researching 21 gaming corporations with U.S. headquarters, most doing business in Las Vegas.

“Our goal was to ascertain the status of women in the workplace in the gaming industry,” board member Denise Duarte said.

Casinos scored on commitment

Women’s leadership lacking

Among the findings of the Gaming Gender Equality Index: Not one of the 21 corporations had a female CEO, chairwoman or president. At only three corporations did women hold one-third or more executive board seats.

Murzl, who attended a forum on the study’s results Monday, said corporations would benefit from placing more women in leadership roles.

“When you don’t have diversity, you end up having everyone thinking the same way and reacting the same way,” she said.

But Murzl added she was also interested in the information that the Gaming Gender Equality Index couldn’t pin down in its first year.

Women of Diversity Productions was unable to determine a gender pay gap in the gaming industry. Duarte said that’s because none of the companies would provide employee compensation data.

Only six companies completed a survey distributed by Women of Diversity Productions. The group, alongside University of Nevada, Las Vegas graduate students, conducted research on the other 15 companies for the study.

“I think ultimately one of the most challenging aspects of this was the lack of transparency all around,” Duarte said. “If it’s not mandatory, certain corporations will not comply.”

Nevada Gaming Commission Chairman Tony Alamo said Women of Diversity Productions had not approached his board about conducting the survey or its results. He said he couldn’t encourage corporations to participate in the study until he learned more about it.

“It doesn’t mean that I am not receptive to listening,” he said. “We are there, and we are waiting.”

Duarte said the group plans to conduct the study again next year. She hopes it will spur corporations to do more to promote gender equality.

“My No. 1 desire is for corporations to start looking at this as a priority,” Duarte said. “And to know that we will be tracking them.”

Contact Michael Scott Davidson at sdavidson@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3861. Follow @davidsonlvrj on Twitter.

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