For many women in male-dominated spaces, the workplace can be lonely. Boys’ clubs, microaggressions, and outright discrimination make outsiders of even the highest achievers.
But Sabrina Pinto, a leader in the male-dominated sports industry, has forged her career despite such blatant exclusion—and she’s doing so now at a company where high-scoring ratings in metrics like The People You Work With and Sense of Belonging actively work to foster inclusion and break down barriers.
That organization is Penn Interactive Ventures, an interactive gaming company and the digital arm of the largest regional casino operator in the U.S., Penn National Gaming. Beyond top-rated Culture metrics, Penn Interactive, or PI, is on multiple best companies lists, such as the ones for Employer Responsiveness and Salary Satisfaction. They also come in first on InHerSight’s list of Best Gambling & Casinos Companies to Work For.
It’s clear from those accolades that competitiveness is built into the culture at Penn Interactive—and that’s a reason, for Pinto, the sports industry works for her. “I love working in sports because much like numbers and results, no one cares what color or race you are as long as you win,” she says.
Learn more from Pinto below about what her career has been like so far and how she’s navigated being the only woman in the game room.
Head of VIP Engagement, at Penn Interactive Ventures for one year
Her top three must-haves at work:
Equal Opportunities for Women and Men
Support for Diversity
Sense of Belonging
First off, share with us what you do for Penn Interactive Ventures. How long have you been with the company, what’s your title, and what are your responsibilities?
As Head of VIP Engagement at Penn Interactive, I have the privilege of creating strategic initiatives to attract and retain top clientele with key media partners such as Barstool Sports, our physical casinos, and corporate team members who lead our mychoice loyalty rewards program. Internally, I take great pride and joy in scaling and managing the top VIP engagement team in the U.S. I work with internal stakeholders and leaders in marketing, operations, and product to ensure we are maintaining the highest level of VIP customer experience through the various client touch points.
What would you say has been your biggest professional accomplishment since joining Penn Interactive Ventures?
My biggest professional accomplishment since joining Penn Interactive was achieving the personal goal of being #1 in revenue within three months of launch. I work for a company that isn’t shy about doubling down on results. I’m very proud that this stream is now a bigger part of the conversation and most proud that we have responsible gaming considerations at the forefront of our strategy.
Sports is a male-dominated industry. During your career, how often have you been the only woman on your team or in your role? What are the challenges that have come along with being “the only” and how have you coped with them?
Since Paspa was repealed in 2018, I have been one of the only women leading high-end gaming strategy and team-building initiatives not only at the companies I have worked for but in our industry as whole as well. I have been lucky to align professionally in the “digital age“ of my career post 2018 with executives that didn’t see my race or gender when discussing production and revenue. Rather, they valued my work ethic, experience, intuition, and connections more than what I look like. Early on in my gaming career, the boys' club mentality was not only tolerated but supported by senior leadership. I was routinely forced to hand off top clients to male counterparts and told repeatedly that the VIP table games job was for men only. The way I dealt with this and continue to deal with this is through results and continuing to expand and solidify my relationships with partners and clients that help me win. Showing up isn’t enough. A positive attitude while 100 percent necessary isn’t enough. People need people. Surrounding myself with people that help create win-win strategies and partnerships has helped me achieve my goals and keep myself highly motivated.
Understanding those struggles now, what advice would you give your younger self about entering a male-dominated industry?
Understanding these challenges now, the advice I’d give my younger self is never stop reinventing yourself and do it faster. It’s really easy to be typecast as a certain type of employee when you show strengths in a certain area such as sales and relationship-building. For me, taking the leap from the brick-and-mortar space in which I was very comfortable and had achieved big time goals was tough. Ultimately, however, if you work for the right company that gives you the opportunity to use what you already bring to the table as a springboard to grow professionally and contribute at a higher level you both win.