Executive Editor, Chris Faria, sits down to learn more about Congresswoman Pam Shaw, Osage Nation Congress, and Chairwoman & Co-Founder of the United Women of Tribal Gaming in this interview.
TG&H: You were one of the first women in a Tribal leadership role, making headway in your career, at the same time raising three sons. You are part of a generation of women who often heard the terms “glass ceiling” and “super woman” and “work-life balance.” Looking forward to 2023, do you think the Tribal gaming and hospitality industry offers more opportunities for women?
When I began my career in Tribal gaming, the opportunities for women were different. I can only speak of my own experience and each Tribe is unique, but women were often relegated to middle management positions at best, most certainly for Native American women. Janie Dillard was absolutely one of the trailblazers and someone I have looked up to my entire career. She led the way, broke those barriers, and continues to do so to this day. I can say that I truly experienced the proverbial “boys club.” I’ll never forget the first panel I sat on with two prominent male leaders in Tribal gaming and how uncomfortable they felt with my presence at the front of the room, alongside them.
Fast forward to 2023 – do I think the Tribal gaming and hospitality industry offers more opportunities for women? You bet! All you have to do is look around and see the number of women now in the C-suite as well as GM and Director positions. Yes, we have children to raise, cookies to bake, and sometimes our cultural roles differ from the roles we have forged in business, but we have shown that we can lead successful organizations, raise our babies, and cheer each other on.
TG&H: Retaining and attracting talent was an issue even before COVID. What can we do as an industry to encourage new generations to enter into Tribal gaming and hospitality? Can our 24/7 retail businesses give new folks entering the workforce the lifestyle they want?
I think the question is, can Tribal gaming accommodate the post-Covid “I want to work from home and have as much freedom as possible” generation. The pandemic showed companies that yes, we can function successfully when employees work from home, and sometimes even more efficiently in certain positions. Going back to work-life balance, I think talented employees will gravitate towards those companies that figure out a way to accommodate this new mindset. We all know that in the gaming and hospitality industry, this is simply not always possible. We are challenged with competing not only for guests, but we are also competing for a talented workforce with different expectations than those before. We have to be creative in our efforts and show prospective talent there are many opportunities and paths for growth and success in our industry.
TG&H: How do you keep your culture alive with your family and your grandchildren?
I have been blessed with three beautiful grandchildren — Lilly is our only granddaughter and turned five in January, Garrett Neal is three, and Wilson Kirk will soon be two. Just as we did with our three sons, culture will be at the center of everything we do, everything. As I have become a grandmother, making sure my grandbabies carry our culture on is exceedingly important to me. I look at their little faces and understand the responsibility I have as their Eko to teach and tell. I feel an urgency to make sure I fulfill this important role properly.
TG&H: If Pam had a week of indulgence, what would that look like?
The perfect week of indulgence would include having all my children, their spouses, and my grandies together at the beach. No phones, no laptops, great food, deadly Uno and cornhole tournaments, and most importantly, memories with family.