How Hospitality and Entertainment Companies Can Advance Gender Equity

Business leaders can make a real difference—at businesses large and small

The recent surge of the #MeToo movement does not represent the discovery of a new problem—it’s a long-needed vocalization of an issue that’s always been present in women’s lives. To be honest, I’ve never seen anything as fast growing and powerful as the #MeToo movement, and it feels like we’ve hit the tipping point. Finally, women who have been victims of harassment can come forward without fear of cultural alienation or even being fired for using their voice. #MeToo is an overdue catalyst for companies to break down the environments that allow for unacceptable behavior. I believe there are some core ways in which business leaders can combat sexual harassment while also addressing its root cause: the enduring lack of equality and equitable distribution of power between men and women.

1. Create a Strong Zero-Tolerance Culture

When women experience the abuse of power in the form of sexual harassment, fear of retaliation can make them hesitant to speak out. But how can we create an environment in which women (and men) who are subject to harassment aren’t afraid? I believe the onus is on each company to foster a culture of zero tolerance for intimidation, including that of a sexual nature. At Caesars Entertainment, that’s the culture we do our best to create for everyone, from our guest-room attendants to our corporate office employees to our entertainers.

Companies large and small should consider how their values inform an environment—from the top down and the bottom up—with clear expectations for appropriate behavior. They should outline the concrete steps that will be taken if those boundaries are crossed. This will lead, ideally, to workplaces in which employees can feel safe, protected, and empowered.

2. Set Goals and Measure Progress

Anyone working in a corporate environment is familiar with the cliché “What gets measured gets managed.” I believe this is true no matter the type of performance you’re talking about—which is why at Caesars we decided to set a gender equity goal. In an industry where we have 50-50 representation at the entry level, but less than 22 percent women at the executive level, we’re taking a first step by addressing women’s representation among manager-level and higher-ranking employees. By striving to achieve a 50 percent level of women among our corporate and casino-hotel managers by 2025, we will be establishing a strong pipeline of female leaders to break the industry’s glass ceiling.

Until companies are willing to set bold and actionable goals to achieve gender equity, they won’t be able to hold people accountable. Caesars also recently conducted a gender pay equity assessment—this is a good way for companies to evaluate their performance in this area, and set benchmarks for getting to equal pay.

A useful way to advance diversity and inclusion is through the introduction of something like our new Equity Councils at the corporate and regional levels—these are task forces of leaders, guided by external experts, who will help implement our gender equity initiative and support activities such as the rollout of unconscious-bias training for Caesars management teams.

3. Live Your Values

Supporting women in business means advocating for those beyond the walls of any given company. For example, procurement executives can look to their supply chains, and IT leaders can establish behavioral expectations among partners. In addition to considerations such as price, quality, and value, leading professionals in the field are already asking questions about whether suppliers recycle and track carbon emissions. Why not ask about the percentage of women at the manager level? And what about at the executive level?

Recent McKinsey research found that companies in the top quarter for female representation on executive teams were 21 percent more likely to experience above-average profits than companies in the lowest quarter and 27 percent more likely to experience better long-term value creation. Closing the gender gap at the executive level is more than “doing good”—it’s a needed step to increase the bottom line.

These values must come from the top in order to trickle down to each level of a company—the CEO and C-suite executives must see the economic and social value of overcoming unconscious gender bias. The head of Caesars Entertainment, CEO and president Mark Frissora, has advocated for our goal of 50-50 by 2025, and many other CEOs have pushed for women’s equality, with the top execs at Salesforce, Best Buy, and Campbell’s committing to do more to advance gender diversity.

Ultimately, we need a gender equity and equality index similar to the Corporate Equality Index of the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, which evaluates companies based on how well they support LGBTQ employees. There are 609 companies on the 2018 list, including Caesars Entertainment. I’d love to see corporate leaders strive for a spot on a similar, gender-focused index—because it takes changing policies and practices to improve scores on lists like these.

Jan Jones Blackhurst is the executive vice president of Public Policy & Corporate Responsibility at Caesars Entertainment. She is a political and business leader who has left an indelible imprint on the lives of millions of people. She spent most of the 1990s as one of the most popular mayors in the history of Las Vegas. She then joined Caesars Entertainment, where she and her teams developed the gaming industry’s first Responsible Gaming practices, and are creating a diverse and inclusive workplace, advancing environmental stewardship, advocating for important social issues, and giving millions of dollars to individuals, families, and communities in need.