Tools for Women's Professional Advancement at the WILL Educational Seminar

IGT continued its enthusiastic support of the Women’s Initiative in Lottery Leadership (WILL) by sponsoring the annual WILL Educational Seminar, held this year at PGRI SMART-Tech in Miami, Florida, on March 5th. WILL was formed four years ago to help women in the Lottery industry grow into and flourish within management positions. Jay Gendron, IGT COO Lottery, was among the speakers at this year’s event. He cited the importance of the WILL initiative to the industry and highlighted women’s advancement as a priority for IGT.

The seminar was moderated by Lisa Bergeron, Co-Creator and Chief Visionary Officer of Advancing Workplace Excellence (AWE). The event also included an interactive presentation and a Q&A session with Rebecca Hargrove, WILL Chairperson, President & CEO Tennessee Lottery Education Corporation, and President of the World Lottery Association.

Bergeron opened the interactive session by explaining that as employees’ careers progress, their overall impact on the organization becomes more top of mind, as does their need to be seen as confident, credible, and competent. By proactively getting comfortable amplifying your value with confidence, ease, and authenticity, all professionals – particularly women – can positively impact their career advancement.

Advancing with Authenticity

Authenticity speaks to the ability to share who you are with confidence, clarity, and empathy, to help communicate your value – in other words, putting one’s best foot forward without putting others off. Bergeron noted that how someone is perceived directly impacts how they will interact with you. Displaying and highlighting one’s capabilities is the most effective way to proactively shape this perception. In her conversation with Bergeron, Hargrove noted that she constantly finds herself facing legislators and various boards of directors, requiring her to communicate with both confidence and competence. Hargrove credits a strong sense of her own worth, coupled with a strong sense of determination, as key factors in her ease when speaking of her professional achievements.

Expressing Confidence

Bergeron cited a “confidence gap” between men and women that is evolving today. Men may be apt to ask or demand what they want, but Hargrove recommended that women overcome the common mental hurdle of “I shouldn’t self-promote.” She encouraged women to recognize their strengths and be determined to communicate their achievements, reminding attendees that “if you don’t believe it, no one else will.”

Confidence is learned and gained in different ways and can sometimes be tied to different cultural backgrounds and eras. For example, Hargrove noted that consistent encouragement by her mother from a young age aided in developing a sense of confidence: “It never occurred to me I couldn’t do anything.” A longtime, pre-Title IX athlete and pageant participant, Hargrove’s well-engrained competitive spirit also helped teach her how to win, loose, and be disciplined – important lessons she has carried forward into her career.

Gaining Ease and Taking Risks

A third key tool of self-promotion is ease. The speakers noted the importance of getting comfortable talking about what you’re proud of and making this practice a part of every day. In relation to the topic of ease, Hargrove noted that in her experience men aren’t afraid to negotiate. It’s crucial to negotiate, and it’s easier when you first understand the landscape and environment you are negotiating within.

Hargrove also spent some time discussing the importance of having a strong network and support system. When she started her career with the Illinois Lottery, it was a new business with very few experts. Her young age, skill sets, and adaptability helped propel her career and, in turn, get recruited to other lotteries. She attributes much of this progress to the support she received from both her spouse and her network. Support groups are crucial, and because most businesses aren’t competing with each other within the lottery industry, it’s one that can foster widespread support, unlike many other industries.

When asked about the risks she has faced in her career and her advice to some who may be risk-averse, Hargrove explained that she’s comfortable taking risks – for example, the one she took when moving from Illinois to Florida to start up the Florida Lottery – and again cited the importance of a supportive partner who encouraged the move. Hargrove explained that her time was limited, so she focused on the job at hand—establishing the lottery—and then dealt with forming her network and circle of influence after that.

When asked about her legacy, Hargrove noted that while that she doesn’t have any children of her own, she hopes her legacy will be felt through her personal relationships, scholarships at Butler University, and various scholarships established at the many lotteries with which she has worked. The WILL initiative is another proud part of that legacy.

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