Why it’s time for gambling companies to put ‘booth babes’ on ICE

February 9, 2018 Eamon Jubbawy

It’s been an uncomfortable few days at ICE Totally Gaming.

This is the third year Onfido has been exhibiting at ICE, and the third year that we’ve seen some companies using ‘booth babes’ to attract attention. You might have seen and heard some of the backlash about this practice.

Onfido stands against it.

We attend lots of events, and we’ve never used hostesses for reasons that seemed obvious. Up to now, we’ve been happy to leave it at that.

But there comes a point where turning a blind eye isn’t enough. We might not engage in this sort of behaviour, but other businesses in our industry do — and as long as nobody speaks out about it, they always will. As a company that fiercely supports inclusivity and diversity, we felt we had to speak out about this now.

Objectification of the kind we saw at ICE is not ok, whether it’s a business event or not. Condoning the objectification of women at any level is to condone it at all levels, so being conscious of this issue — no matter how many try to brush it off as harmless entertainment — is crucial.

Tech companies don’t typically have the best rep when it comes to gender inclusivity — and it’s these kind of behaviours that exacerbate that problem. Onfido isn’t perfect by any means, but it’s something we’re actively working to improve in 2018 as we continue to grow. Our Director of Talent Acquisition, ZeShaan, recently wrote a blog about our Diversity and Inclusivity goals, one of which is to achieve 18% women in tech roles. That sounds low, and it is — but even global tech giants only track at around 15–19%, which goes to show how much of a challenge this represents.

Fixing the numbers is only one part of the problem. Even where women are included in the tech workforce, they’re not always welcomed — as the cascade of horror stories that followed Susan Fowler’s exposé of sexism at Uber made abundantly clear.

It’s a challenge that extends beyond the tech world, of course. In sports, too, it’s an issue — but one where progress is already being made. Just last week, Formula One switched its old tradition of grid girls for the new one of grid kids. That follows the news last month that darts is doing away with walk-on girls.

The gambling industry sits somewhere at the apex of tech and sports. On one hand, that means it’s particularly susceptible to the sexist practices that proliferate in each. But on the other, it means gambling is uniquely positioned to build upon the progress both are making.

The increase in regulation and support for problem gambling over the last few years demonstrates the industry’s commitment to social issues. Gambling businesses are known for being innovative, forward-thinking and receptive to change. But the treatment of women seems to be one area where the industry is falling behind.

By speaking out against practices we disagree with, and by working hard to achieve our own inclusivity goals, I’m hopeful we can effect real change. Of course, that change has to come from across the whole industry. The Gambling Commission has already (rightly) spoken out against the use of hostesses, but it’s up to the organisers of ICE and other conferences, and the leaders of the biggest and most influential businesses to take that message on board.

It’s the responsibility of everyone in this industry to do better. At Onfido, we want to help move gambling forward, and be an agent for change — not just with new tech, but new ideas.


About the Author

Eamon Jubbawy

Eamon Jubbawy is the COO and co-founder of Onfido. Eamon is responsible for the day-to-day leadership and general management of the company, overseeing Onfido’s people and culture as the company experiences international growth. In 2016, Eamon was named as one of Forbes’ ‘30 Under 30’, and as the UK Digital Entrepreneur Awards’ ‘Young Digital Entrepreneur of the Year’. Alongside his role at Onfido, Eamon also serves as Deputy Chair of the UK Fintech Delivery Panel.

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