‘Women in iGaming’, meet Jonna Danlund, Head of Sustainability at Betsson
In the first monthly focus on Women in iGaming, Why iGaming talks to Jonna Danlund, Head of Sustainability at Betsson and finds out what it is like to be a woman in the iGaming industry.
Can you give us a description of the company you work with, and your role?
Betsson Group has been around since the 60s, so for over half a century. We’re a global gaming company with 2000+ employees and 13 offices from Georgia to Colombia. We offer our customers entertainment through online casino and sportsbook, and we also have a B2B business. Our holding company, Betsson AB, is listed on Stockholm Nasdaq and the operational headquarter is located in Malta, where we have two offices and around 1,000 employees.
I’m Head of Sustainability, which means that I am tasked with driving the work within our Sustainability framework. The framework has five focus areas: Responsible Gaming, Business Compliance, Employee Impact, Social Impact and Climate Impact where each area has specific ambitions, goals and KPIs. Since no woman is an island, there are engaged employees all around our offices and departments who support the work with sustainability on a global scale, take action, and ensure that we measure and follow up on our sustainability efforts.
What has been your career journey to bring you to this point?
I have a background within large public and private companies and organisations, where I have held various communication roles. I have been with the Swedish Government, the European Parliament, and the UN. Before joining Betsson, I was Head of Internal, Editorial and Digital Communication at Saab Defence and Security.
I would say that the common denominator is that I have always worked with matters and topics that are in the media spotlight and politically charged, I find this both challenging and stimulating. iGaming and Sustainability are no exceptions.
I joined Betsson five years ago, as Strategic Communications Manager, and I soon got involved in the company’s work with Sustainability, notably the yearly Sustainability report and the preparatory work for what would later become our Sustainability framework. When last year Betsson decided to put further focus on this important area by appointing a Head of Sustainability, I was excited to move into the role.
Before you joined the iGaming industry, did you have any preconceptions, particularly in relation to the gender balance?
I can’t say that gender balance was something I particularly thought about before joining the industry. I was more interested with how different iGaming companies worked with responsible gaming and compliance, and I found that Betsson Group stood out in a positive way within those areas.
Coming from the defence sector, which is also tech heavy, any perception I might have had was that Gaming would also be male dominated. However, at Betsson, we are around 40% women in the total workforce, and one of the goals in our Sustainability framework is that this should be reflected on managerial level i.e. that at least 40% of the people managers should be women.
Have you encountered any gender related challenges along the way?
I’m a firm believer in the importance of seeing the individual rather than the gender – or for that matter the race or faith or age or whatever characteristics we choose to categorise people and to attribute certain skills or potential to them.
I think it’s very easy to fall into the trap of hiring “someone like me” – someone with the same nationality or background. Or indeed the same gender. We must always stay vigilant to make sure that we make the right decisions for the company when we hire and promote. And not take the easy way out. Because it will come back to bite us. If we get a company made up entirely of “people like me” – whoever that is – we will have lost the diversity that drives innovation, new ideas and a different view.
Being, at the time, a young woman in the defence sector which was predominately made up of 50+ year old males, and now being a slightly older woman in the young and vibrant gaming sector, or for that matter being the only white female in the part of the Sudan where I was stationed when I was with the UN, I do know what it’s like to be outside of the norm. Sometimes it has been an advantage in the sense that it made me visible and easy to remember, and sometimes it has been a disadvantage.
I have always been fortunate in my career to have managers who focused on skills rather than gender. That being said, I have definitely experienced moments when I felt it was hard to make my voice and opinions heard in a room filled predominantly with men, or where I have felt excluded from certain groups or gatherings, or where I have felt that I had to deliver more output and of a higher quality to get the same recognition as male colleagues.
Why did you initially choose iGaming?
I choose iGaming because for me it was the perfect match of an interesting, challenging job in a fascinating, growing sector – and it was set in a beautiful location, Malta. I have lived around the world, but Malta is special. The lifestyle, the people, the history, culture, and climate all come together to make one charming island that is very close to my heart.
What support have you experienced, both as a team member, and perhaps relating to gender?
Betsson has a very thorough onboarding process, where new starters get to hear about business strategy, products, and markets directly from the CEO and other senior managers. This is of course an excellent starting point.
Furthermore, one of our company values is One Betsson which is all about how we work together, support each other, and make everyone feel welcome. I find that company culture cannot be overrated. It is so important for how you experience your job, and how included you feel. After all, we spend a lot of time at work, and being comfortable and appreciated is key.
At Betsson, we also have the WIBE (Women in Betsson) network, which is a platform to promote equality and the empowerment of women within the iGaming industry, and where women at Betsson can network and inspire each other. I was fortunate enough to get to moderate a panel where some of our talented women at Betsson talked about their career journey, which was most interesting. Through the WIBE platform, we have also listened to a number of excellent external speakers on various subjects within equality and diversity.
Last but not least, I was honoured to be considered for the position as Head of Sustainability, which I take as a testament to that my achievements at Betsson had been noticed, and that the management believed in my potential to contribute going forward.
Looking back, how would you describe your perception versus reality?
Although I did on some level understand that iGaming was a fast-paced industry, I did not realise at the time what potential this provides in terms of evolving and driving an area, such as sustainability – or diversity for that matter. Whereas other companies may have very long decision processes and a complex hierarchal structure, Betsson is agile and when there’s a will there’s always a way. That bodes well for the future of these important topics.
To find your perfect role in the iGaming industry check out the jobs listed here: https://www.whyigaming.eu/careers-search/
Many thanks to Jonna at www.betssongroup.com