By Katie Ann McCarver (contact)
Saturday, March 11, 2023 | 2 a.m.
When Las Vegas Aces President Nikki Fargas came to Southern Nevada, the goal of both her and her colleagues was to increase opportunities for women in basketball and in the boardroom.
About two years later, Fargas and her team have done just that — while also securing a WNBA Championship title and their place in Las Vegas history.
“To me, women are showcasing that when you give us the opportunity — when you allow us to have a quote-unquote seat at the table — look at all the great things that come from that,” Fargas said.
Fargas was one of five women recognized Thursday during Las Vegas’ inaugural “Women of Inspiration” event at Allegiant Stadium, hosted by the local chapter of Women in Sports and Events (WISE) and Global Gaming Women.
Other honorees included Colleen Birch, Fontainebleau Las Vegas chief operating officer; Qiava Martinez, Las Vegas Raiders chief sales officer; Melanie Gross, Golden Hearts Games senior vice president and head of product; and Erin Lydon, president of PokerPower.
“Our mission is to empower women in the industry with tools to really reach their highest career goals,” said Bronwen Gregg, president of WISE Las Vegas and membership co-chair of Global Gaming Women. “So, it’s everything from professional development and mentorship opportunities … (to) of course, amazing events like this to connect us all.”
Members of both organizations were asked to nominate women who inspired them the most within the past year, and a subcommittee composed of representatives from each group selected the final roster of honorees, said Gregg, who is also the gaming and casinos portfolio lead at Insight Global.
Birch, of Fontainebleau Las Vegas, said she found out about the honor from the head of Global Gaming Women — a woman she knew in her first hospitality job at Caesars Palace about 25 years ago.
“The fact that she was able to call me and share this news was a little bit of a goosebump moment,” Birch said. “I was shocked, only because I just think that there are so many people who are worthy.”
Looking forward, Birch said she would love to see an increased number of female leaders in hospitality, sports and other major Las Vegas industries.
“I would encourage women to take more chances and just grab a hold of that opportunity,” Birch said.
An event like Thursday’s is special because there are a range of people at all points in their careers in the audience, who could learn a lot from what the honorees have to share and the example they have set.
“It’s more so about the journey that we’ve had to take to get there,” Fargas echoed. “And being able to tell our stories and share them in a room where people will be compelled to say, ‘Oh, this is what I need to take from this. And I might need to look at how I’m structuring my particular business or entity to make sure that I’m also influencing what the next generation is going to look like.’ ”
An event like “Women of Inspiration” is also important to honor women in Las Vegas as they make an increasingly large impact on the historically male-dominated industries of gaming and sports, Gregg said.
It’s still far from smooth sailing for many women in business, she said, and elevating their accomplishments not only celebrates their hard work but encourages other women to follow in their footsteps.
“We have such impressive and incredible barrier breakers and glass-ceiling shatterers within our industries and communities — especially in recent years,” said Gregg, who emphasized the significance of recognizing women in gaming and sports in Las Vegas, which is a mecca for both. “However, there’s still so many unique challenges that women face on a daily basis.”
The intersection of gaming and sports is at the heart of Las Vegas, and Fargas — who was recognized as the Inspirational Woman of 2022 — said she was honored to stand alongside four other “rock star” women with such trailblazing influence on both industries.
“We’re setting the bar, and the bar has been set extremely, extremely high,” Fargas said prior to Thursday’s sold-out event. “Women do belong, and what better way to show their belonging than to showcase and highlight some of the powerful women who are part of the Raiders organization, who are part of the world of gaming and sports betting?”
Click here to watch Colleen be introduced by her daughter at the event.