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January 20, 2019

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At forum, Wynn Resorts female directors signal new era at company


John Locher / AP

From left, Betsy Atkins, Pat Mulroy, Kim Sinatra, Dee Dee Myers and Wendy Webb participate in a women’s forum at the Wynn, Monday, May 14, 2018, in Las Vegas. Sinatra, executive vice president of Wynn Resorts, hosted the event.

The four female directors of casino operator Wynn Resorts said at a forum Monday they are committed to helping lead the company into a renaissance following the sexual misconduct scandal that engulfed its founder earlier this year.

Kim Sinatra, executive vice president of Wynn Resorts, hosted a panel discussion with board members Pat Mulroy, Betsy Atkins, Dee Dee Myers and Wendy Webb in the Women’s Leadership Forum Monday night, focusing on pay and job equality, sexual harassment, workplace safety and diversity, and training. Atkins, Myers and Webb were added to the board last month.

Wynn Resorts employs 25,000 people worldwide.

A hundred or so Wynn employees attended the event at the Encore Theater, which was the first meeting of the women’s forum that will take place about once every eight weeks. The series was formed not long after sexual misconduct allegations emerged against longtime gaming figure Steve Wynn.

Wynn resigned as chairman and CEO in February and later sold his company shares after the Wall Street Journal reported that several women said he harassed or assaulted them and that one case led to a $7.5 million settlement with a manicurist formerly employed by the company.

The women executives shared stories of working their way up in their careers, taking questions from the crowd, mainly about how to navigate their own career paths.

“When you get employees into a forum like this, the conversation gets very personal,” said Mulroy, senior fellow for the Brookings Institution, who was the first woman general manager of the Southern Nevada Water Authority. “It’s, ‘How can I benefit from this. How can this move my career?’”

The importance of the series of forums is to show the Wynn Resorts employees that everyone matters and to help cultivate a healthy workplace culture.

“We want to share our experiences and make sure everyone in the audience felt valued, appreciated and respected and know that we look forward in investing in their future,” said Atkins, founder of the Baja Corp.

The recent additions of Atkins, Myer and Webb will allow for different points of view and provide solutions that may not have otherwise been considered in the past.

“I think having more women on the board brings diversity … it’s not just women, it’s a different perspective, with different kinds of experiences we each bring,” Myers said, who was the first-ever female White House press secretary, during the Bill Clinton administration. “Collectively (we bring) a broader view of what’s happening, what the range of possible responses might be.”

Webb, a former 20-year executive with Walt Disney Group, compared the transition Wynn Resorts is going through to when the Walt Disney Co. transitioned after Walt died in 1966 and later his brother, Roy Disney, in 1971.

“There’s a lot of parallels moving from a founder-led organization to a professionally managed organization,” Webb said. “The parallels are really moving from all the terrific things the founder may have had as far as vision and creative outlook … and to move them forward. The word reinvention is something that I use and forward-looking. The management team is committed to the future.”

Aside from adding women, the board will look to further diversify the board to better reflect the employee base and the customers they serve. There is no timetable on adding the new members, but Mulroy said moving as quickly as possible is important.

“We need certain skills-sets on this board, we also need to represent certain geographies that the company is involved in, then we can see if there are candidates with some ethnic diversity to the board within that larger need, for the board’s refreshment — that’s where we would go.”

The board of directors will focus on a plan going forward that assures that every employee, regardless of gender, feels safe and dignified.

“Understanding the culture, overseeing the culture and making sure that it’s a healthy, positive culture, making sure that everybody thrives,” Atkins said. “The human capital is the most valuable asset of this company. So when you think of culture governance, one of the key responsibilities of delivering a healthy, long-term enterprise … is the tone at the top (of the company).”

The company's annual shareholders' meeting will be held Wednesday in Las Vegas.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.