The Diversity Doctrine
by Steven Marlin
The Diversity Doctrine
Gaming companiesâ€™ diversification efforts are beginning to bearfruit among the executive ranks as well as on the front lines
Myrna Soto has a unique perspective on diversity within the gaming industry. As vice president of IT governance and chief information security officer at MGM Mirage, Soto is one of two female vice presidents of Hispanic descent in the company. She is also one of a small number of female IT executives, which she attributes to a paucity of recruitment efforts at the college level.
Minority students have shunned potentially lucrative careers in high-tech because of the perception theyâ€™ll be blocked from advancement into senior management.
Â â€œThe executive ranks in IT are thin when it comes to female representation,â€� she said.
Soto spent the bulk of her career in the financial services industry before joining Mandalay Resort Group and then, by way of merger, MGM Mirage. Compared to financial services, a leading industry in diversity, the gaming industry still has a ways to go in promoting minority executives. â€œMinority representation at the C-level isnâ€™t nearly as strong as at the supervisory and staff levels,â€� Soto said. Still, MGM Mirage has done a â€œphenomenal jobâ€� at promoting diversity, she said.
Renee West, who, as president and chief operating officer at Excalibur, was the first female to head a casino operation, said there are a lot of women executives from diverse backgrounds in marketing, finance and human resources who are one step below the C-level suite. â€œItâ€™s an evolutionary process,â€� she said in an interview with Nevada Public Radio. â€œ(MGM Mirage chairman Terry Lanni) has taken a leadership role and has actively led diversity efforts. Itâ€™s not an affirmative action program; weâ€™re actively preparing people to move to the next level.â€�
Beyond lip service
The scope of diversity efforts by casino operators is multifaceted: refinement of business plans, methods and monitoring systems; recruitment and management development programs; outreach to diverse suppliers, contractors and multicultural customer markets; strategic partnerships and media relations; and targeted philanthropy.
West points to MGM Mirageâ€™s Diversity Champions workshop as an example of the companyâ€™s commitment to diversity. An intense, five-day leadership development and diversity course, the workshop is designed to conduct management diversity training, assist with front-line employee diversity education and to help attendees become advocates and role models of diversity within the work environment. The class is taught using lectures, group activities, role-playing, journaling, guest speakers, videos and reading assignments.
The gaming industry relies heavily on service workers, and accordingly hires a significant number of women and minorities at entry-level positions. More than half of the employment positions in the industry are service worker positions, as compared to just under 12 percent of the national workforce, according to a 2003 study by the American Gaming Association.
Casinos also employ more supervisors and managers than the national workforce, a large number of them minorities, providing a base upon which to build a more diverse executive corps. Overall, the gaming industry employs 38 percent minority workers in the non-service sector, compared with 28 percent in the national workforce.
Casinos are doing more than just paying lip service to diversity; theyâ€™re acting on it.
â€œBy diversifying our base of employees, vendors and community partners, we build a stronger, more knowledgeable companyâ€”one better suited to make everyone feel welcome when they visit a Harrahâ€™s property,â€� said Fred Keeton, vice president of external affairs and chief diversity officer at Harrahâ€™s Entertainment.
The AGA and five of its largest member companies (Boyd Gaming, Harrahâ€™s, MGM Mirage, Penn National Gaming and Station Casinos) recently announced a new diversity reporting program for suppliers. The program requires suppliers of participating gaming companies to submit quarterly reports detailing the amount of business they contract with minority-, women-, and disadvantaged-owned enterprises (MWDBEs).
For now, gaming industry suppliers will only be required to submit indirect tier II reporting, which means theyâ€™ll be required to report the total amount of business they do with MWDBEs, whether or not the products or services from those companies are then passed on to gaming companies. However, some individual gaming companies will likely require suppliers to provide direct tier II reporting, meaning theyâ€™ll also be asked to report on diversity business with vendors and suppliers whose products get passed on directly to the gaming companies.
While thereâ€™s no threshold suppliers must meet in their diversity reporting to do business with participating gaming companies, when selecting between two similar companies for procurement and contracting opportunities, the company doing a better job with diversity practices will have a distinct advantage.
Separately, MGM Mirage and Perini Building Co. have launched a nationwide campaign to identify qualified MWDBEs to participate in the construction of Project CityCenter, a $7 billion casino, hotel, retail, condo and entertainment development in Las Vegas. Perini is the general contractor for the project. Plotted on 76 acres, Project CityCenter will include a 4,000-room hotel tower, two luxury condominiums, and two nongaming hotels, plus a half-million square feet of retail stores, cafes, galleries, bars and jazz clubs.
â€œOne of our primary goals is to include as many qualified construction diversity firms as possible as we build CityCenter,â€� said Anderine Cowan, MGM Mirageâ€™s construction diversity manager. â€œWe have spent the last year reaching out to companies in Las Vegas, and now we are expanding the search throughout the United States.â€�
Minority executives tend to have diverse professional backgrounds. For example, Lorenzo Creighton, who, as president and chief operating officer of New York-New York Hotel & Casino, is the first African American to lead a property on the Las Vegas Strip, had been a high school teacher, an attorney and a judge prior to commencing his 16-year career in the gaming industry. â€œIâ€™ve had several careers,â€� Creighton said. â€œEach prepared me for the opportunity that I enjoy today.â€�
Prior to assuming his role as president of New York-New York in 2005, Creighton held executive positions at Lady Luck in Natchez, Miss., the President Casino in St. Louis and Ballyâ€™s Casino in New Orleans. He took the helm as a casino president in 2002 when he joined the Flamingo Hilton in Las Vegas, where he led the property through much of its renovation efforts.
Gary Mayo, vice president of energy and environmental services at MGM Mirage, spent 30 years at Ford and Visteon, Fordâ€™s automotive components manufacturing division, prior to joining MGM Mirage in 2006. He was attracted to MGM Mirage by its commitment to diversity and by the opportunity to launch a corporate sustainability initiative, encompassing a range of environmental, social and philanthropic issues.
â€œThe business case for diversity gives us the opportunity to strengthen the talent base at all levels within our industry and respective corporations,â€� Mayo said.
Beyond Las Vegas too, the gaming industry has ratcheted up diversity efforts. In 2006, for example, four casinos operating in Kansas City, Mo. (Ameristar Casino Hotel, Argosy Riverside Casino, Harrahâ€™s North Kansas City and Isle of Capri Casino), in partnership with the MidAmerica Minority Business Development Council, hosted the 5th Area Casino Marketplace 2006, a collaborative effort to extend procurement opportunities to minority- and women-owned businesses in the region and increase the size of their minority- and women-owned supplier base.
The event attracted more than 50 area suppliers of goods and services ranging from fresh seafood, fence construction and bath fixtures to food service equipment, uniforms and diesel fuel.
Rather than invite any minority- or women-owned business in the area to participate regardless of what they had to sell, the event was limited to those companies providing products and services listed by participating companies as specific needs. While the strategy yielded the smallest pool of suppliers in the eventâ€™s five-year history, both suppliers and casino representatives indicated the event was far more productive than in past years.
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