Close
Are you sure? Are you sure you want to report this comment? I understand, report it. Cancel

Chi Onwurah: girls, gaming and growth

Chi Onwurah: girls, gaming and growth

Thu 09 May 2013 11:36am GMT / 7:36am EDT / 4:36am PDT
PoliticsGameHorizon 2013

GameHorizon Live: "The lack of women in ICT is an absolute scandal that shames us as a country"

Chi Onwuurah hit the headlines recently when she said that there has been little to no progress in encouraging girls to take up ICT careers over the last 30 years.

In this exclusive session from GameHorizon, Onwurah goes into more detail on how and why the government must do more to encourage and support diversity in the video game and technology sectors, and the value that brings to the market and the UK economy.

About

Chi is the Labour MP for Newcastle, the town where she was born and raised. With an academic background in electrical engineering and a career in hardware and software development, she has most recently been campaigning for the government to help increase the number of females in ICT careers.

32 Comments

Khash Firestorm
Senior Programmer

38 37 1.0
Again and again the same topic...
we bad, evil game developers are pushing women away!...
I really can't imagine any company I were working with to not accept women because of her gender while she will have same or even better skills as male potential emploee.
Before another copy-paste topic like this starts it would be great to see not only how many women are working but how many are rejected proportionally to applications and their skills in comarision with the same criteria for male. And I think it would be around the same.
As for education, I think that best game developers are those who started doing their games at home, who do research and work hard in free time to make their own games. School is very helpful but without home-dev is not so valuable. And it is something what anyone can do. No matter if he is yeoung or old, male or female etc...
With years of this type of experience they are usually far better than those educated in unis.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Khash Firestorm on 9th May 2013 6:01pm

Posted:A year ago

#1
She talks a lot about getting into schools & encouraging girls to take up IT & offering careers advice, but in reality which companies have the time? Both in terms of pulling people off their tight deadlines, but also waiting for the people you've spoken to to leave school, get their A-levels, and finally finish at university? That's longer than most studios survive... :(

Posted:A year ago

#2

Adam Campbell
Associate Producer

1,137 914 0.8
Like I've alluded to before, rather than blaming anyone, rather than creating scandals, rather than sexism rows - it would be more constructive to gather statistics and investigate what may push or pull girls/women to and from certain career or educational paths. Starting at the fundamentals rather than the headlines.

The information, where we notice holes or problems in the education of girls can potentially be used to shape future educational strategies. Then where its purely a matter of personal interest, we can perhaps look into ways of attracting women from other industries where their skill sets could be applied in a similar way, thus helping increase the overall talent pool in IT (and games).

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Adam Campbell on 9th May 2013 5:14pm

Posted:A year ago

#3

John Tearle
Founder, CEO

17 10 0.6
Popular Comment
This was a joke - in the Q&A at the end she told Andrew Oliver - self taught/made studio owner - that it's his responsibility to help facilitate the tuition of females into the IT space... I'm sure him and his brother would have appreciated that when they first started... This industry is ultra competitive and built upon people who spend their spare time self learning their way into development positions. No matter what the gender, it's the responsibility of government to facilitate education and aid in the steering of new talent into a career path. The whole thing sounded like more of a scalding than any kind of tangible action driven by a person who is potentially in a position of authority within government. Andrew put it quite rightly - NO ONE should be employed on the basis of gender, race etc. but should be judged on the merit of their skillset and ability.

Posted:A year ago

#4

Paul Jace
Merchandiser

870 1,278 1.5
"The lack of women in ICT is an absolute scandal that shames us as a country"
Not that I want to downplay the importance of having equally gender-balanced work places, but the above quote is more than a bit over dramatic.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Paul Jace on 10th May 2013 12:00am

Posted:A year ago

#5

Khash Firestorm
Senior Programmer

38 37 1.0
Popular Comment
"The lack of women in ICT is an absolute scandal that shames us as a country"
Scandal? Shames us? Why, because women are not equally interested in game dev industry as male? I think its very similar in Truck Driving, Trash collectors and many other jobs.
Game industry is usually not-so-well paid, you have there "normal overhours" and very high skill requirements and huge risk of redundancies every other project in comaprision with overall IT sector.
I think many women simply goes to better paid, stable jobs. And until that changes GI will most likely not attract many more women. Problem is that there are so many male who are willing to sacrafice huge part of their own live to work there with all those drawbacks which keeps this state intact over years.
We shouldn't change GI to make it more attractive to women, we should make it more attractive to men, make it more stable and reliable. And in the ent we will find so many more women there as well, just because it would not be anymore "teenager dreem" job, but proper work with stable future.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Khash Firestorm on 10th May 2013 7:59am

Posted:A year ago

#6

Neil Hall
Senior Lecturer in Games Animation

22 16 0.7
I wonder if there's a similar debate about males, going on over at whenigrowup-iwant-2ba-hairdresser.com

Posted:A year ago

#7

Christopher Bowen
Editor in Chief

402 526 1.3
Popular Comment
Look, the only thing we can do is make the workplace less like a locker room and more like a professional business. Stop the strippers at the parties. Stop the assumption that anyone female in the workplace performed a sexual act to get her position. Treat people like equals.

That part is getting done more by the day. This talk, and the incendiary language used therein, is very over the top, and makes me discredit the entire point.

Posted:A year ago

#8
We shouldn't change GI to make it more attractive to women, we should make it more attractive to men, make it more stable and reliable. And in the ent we will find so many more women there as well, just because it would not be anymore "teenager dreem" job, but proper work with stable future.
Amen! Khash for Prime Minister!

Making the industry more stable & reliable (perhaps even a little better paid) would be a great thing, whoever you are. I'm currently taking a break from the industry because I've got a young family and can't afford the risk of yet another studio closure. Instead I'm working in the 'oh so much more stable' VFX industry. Companies still close all over but I'm getting paid a lot more than I was, I can leave at a sensible time each day and we get these things called "Benefits" and "Pension plans" (if you've not heard of them, it's where the company gives you things for free! And I don't just mean Pizza!). VFX is fine, but it's not the same so I'd love to get back to games, but it's hard to justify making the move back to that level of exploitation right now.

Posted:A year ago

#9

Eric Pallavicini
Game Master

259 165 0.6
I am just flabbergasted by what I just saw and heard.

So now the private sector must do the government's and public education's job ? They have to invest time, money and resources in addition to the taxes they pay ? Great plan, maybe the gaming industry should also be more proactive to retrain jobless people at its expenses and help tackle unemployment (and tomorrow ? hunger in the world ?).

@Khash, I definitely agree... considering how many lay-offs there have already been happening this year, there is a long way to go though.

Edited 3 times. Last edit by Eric Pallavicini on 10th May 2013 10:00am

Posted:A year ago

#10

Tom Keresztes
Programmer

632 239 0.4
Only 15% of the ICT graduates are female in the UK, which is below the international average of 20 -> and well below Iran's 41%.

One PDF

Posted:A year ago

#11

Eric Pallavicini
Game Master

259 165 0.6
@Tom
What percentage of Information and Communication Technologies related industries does the Gaming Industry represent ?

Posted:A year ago

#12

Andreas Gschwari
Senior Games Designer

555 607 1.1
Only 15% of the ICT graduates are female in the UK, which is below the international average of 20 -> and well below Iran's 41%.
Personally i don't see how that is the fault or the responsibility of the games industry, or the IT industry in general. If 15% of graduates are women, clearly the issue starts much earlier than when they enter the workplace. I would say this is down to perception and interest.

If it's perception: sure the industry can be perceived as a boys-club, but then again articles we have seen recently and kickstarter documentaries as well as blog posts that only highlight bad examples don't help the perception. What we need is women who work in the industry and have a good experience to step up and talk about that.

If it's interest: we as an industry can't change that. Nor should we change it. To be quite honest with you: does it really matter? If no more women want to work in the industry then so be it. It won't mean there is a shortage of talented people who do want to work in it. Unless we, as an industry, think we can only achieve certain things with a higher precentage of female staff. And if that's the case, i'd like to know what we can't achieve.

Personally i don't really care if i work with women or men. I want to work with the best people in the field, people who are passionate, driven and are great fun to work with and share a large part of my week with. Gender does not come into the equation for me with that regard at all. Equality to me means that women are capable of doing the exact same job as men (and should be paid the same for the same job of course). The reverse is true - men are capable of doing the exact same job as women. Ergo it follows, to me at least, that it does not matter what the percentage of women in the industry really is.

If more women get interested in the industry, see and hear about the good sides of it (and not just the constant "the industry is full of sexist men" barrage), then i am sure we will see more women join our ranks.

What the industry does need to change, and this is true regardless of gender, is an outdated outlook on project management and work ethics. Less overtime, more family time, less crunch, fair pay - things that are taken care of very well in Sweden for example. If that is in place, perhaps that will make the industry more attractive to begin with.

Posted:A year ago

#13

Eric Pallavicini
Game Master

259 165 0.6
If more women get interested in the industry, see and hear about the good sides of it (and not just the constant "the industry is full of sexist men" barrage), then i am sure we will see more women join our ranks.
Well, there is still, as you mention it (like many others did in this topic and i.e. other topic on GI.biz), the stability issue though. Overtime, for a passionate or someone who sleeps better when he/she gets things done at the right time it is not really an issue as long as one choose freely to do it (and if that doesn't interfere with family life - I mean if you really into finishing or advancing something, you can still go home and spend some quality time with your children and partner and then work an hour or two before going to bed yourself if you feel like it).

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Eric Pallavicini on 10th May 2013 10:50am

Posted:A year ago

#14

Tom Keresztes
Programmer

632 239 0.4
"I feel like the economic wealth in the United States plays a large role in allowing “coolness” to influence these decisions. Looking at the countries with a lot of female developers, they tend to be poor or developing countries: the Middle East, South America, Eastern Europe, and Asia. The places with lower rates of female developers are the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, and other wealthier nations. In a poor or developing nation, when there is a chance to do better for yourself, you might be more likely to go for an IT career, regardless of how hard it might be or what other people think. In the United States, for example, people are much more likely to be able to take a “cool” or easier path than IT and still do well for themselves."

Check my comment on that topic for the source link.

Posted:A year ago

#15

Chris Payne
Associate Lead Programmer

33 68 2.1
Popular Comment
I'm reading a lot of comments saying "so what if 50% of the population don't wanna work for us? Not our problem". That's just embarrassing.

Imagine the industry was populated almost entirely by people whose surnames began with letters up to M. Only the first half of the alphabet take Computer Science qualifications or apply for games jobs. Would you still say "we're doing fine without the latter half of the alphabet" and "it's up to them to step up. Or Government. Or someone."? Do you really not care why nearly HALF THE WORLD doesn't want to work with us? Don't you want to recruit from a talent pool twice the size?

I agree it's not entirely the fault of the industry - it's a cultural problem with roots in academia and media as well. But guess what? Cultures change...if enough people push for it. It's not all on us to fix the imbalance, but we should certainly be trying to help, not sitting on our hands and waiting for someone else to fix things for our benefit.

Posted:A year ago

#16

Eric Pallavicini
Game Master

259 165 0.6
I agree it's not entirely the fault of the industry - it's a cultural problem with roots in academia and media as well. But guess what? Cultures change...if enough people push for it. It's not all on us to fix the imbalance, but we should certainly be trying to help, not sitting on our hands and waiting for someone else to fix things for our benefit.
@Chris
Imbalance ? According to what ?
Is there any MP running around in timber, truckers, mechanics, waste collection (or you name it job typically/traditionnaly not attracting to women) conventions to blame the woodcutting, transport, garage, waste collection companies that they should be proactive to recruit women because of the sake of some arbitrary statistical equality ?

And how should the industry be more proactive regarding to the topic ? We already mentioned stability, overtime as being much more serious reason for people to stay away from the industry... an industry first born per the passion of some people who had computer science skills and did games as a hobby and found out they could then sell them. Passion is a key word here, something we may forget with the triple AAA budgets, but that "value" was what made the industry what it is now. If an individual is passionate about cutting trees, man or woman, he/she will go for a timber career. If a individual is passionate about coding, and find it more exciting to code games than stock management software... man or woman, he/she will go for a developer career in the industry.

Now, you cannot inspire passion by force... Passion is something each individual must find and grow in her/himself and it is only contagious when you contaminate others with your own if your are yourself truly passionate. Otherwise its marketing and this "enthusiasm" you've created will just fall flat as fast as it rose.

And you don't need to go very far to see what the reality of the Gaming Industry... just check the headlines on this site, the topics that interests us : jobs lost by anonymous masses of passionate hard workers because the companies laying off are doing so well that they need to do it with even less people... Jobs found by high-flyers and icons of the industry, debates about much more important issues like the fact we don't have enough people with blue eyes in the industry compared to the demographics of Antartica...

Don't get me wrong, Chris, having more people, regardless of their gender, culture, color of hair, interested in the industry is important, but I think what has been said a lot around here and becoming a much more mature industry overall is a much more important issue for the industry and that is where the industry should put its efforts in the first place.

Some say that if you have a good game, it will sell well because it is good (while of course it is not as simple, because you need a good advertizing as well, although if a minimal requirement is attained then it start to "self-advertize" by "word of mouth" - or tweets, or +1, or likes on the web) and I do believe the same for the industry, make the industry better, more stable, and more attractive FOR EVERYONE and then you'll get your talent pool. But trying to get the "talent pool" bigger when you cannot fill what you promise to them ? I believe it is a bad move and a waste of resources and ultimately misleading for the ones you are courting to join you.

Edited 4 times. Last edit by Eric Pallavicini on 10th May 2013 4:05pm

Posted:A year ago

#17

Andreas Gschwari
Senior Games Designer

555 607 1.1
Chris: i would fully agree with you if the issue was "they don't want to work with us" - but is that really the case? I am sure it will be for some women who don't want to join the games industry because of a (perceived) reputation.

But i would argue that in many cases there simply is no interest in the industry. Not every young man dreams of working in games either. And so i don't think it's just as easy to say as "they don't want to work with us".

I would love to recruit from a talent pool as large as possible! that goes without saying :)

Posted:A year ago

#18

Jade Law
Senior concept artist

72 291 4.0
I've yet to see why good argument as to why we need more women in industry.
Equality isnt about having equal numbers, its about treating your peers with respect regardless of race/gender/etc

Posted:A year ago

#19

Andreas Gschwari
Senior Games Designer

555 607 1.1
Equality isnt about having equal numbers, its about treating your peers with respect regardless of race/gender/etc
That! Best statement on the subject in months!

Posted:A year ago

#20

Adam Campbell
Associate Producer

1,137 914 0.8
If there's a huge gulf in the number of people from a gender participating in the biggest entertainment industry in the UK (games) or ICT industry generally, then I think its OK to ask the questions on why, even if it is to do with education or interest or nothing at all. Equality doesn't seem to be the real issue, though many are going down that route to explain the anomaly.

When it comes to attracting the best out there, its also OK to ask why the artists, programmers, project managers etc. may go into other fields, even if they're really similar ones. Could be purely interest but if that number of people could be tapped into for the benefit of filling games companies with more talent then that could be positive too, especially when there are often talks of an incoming 'skills shortage' however true that may be.

Posted:A year ago

#21

Ella Romanos
CEO

7 9 1.3
Popular Comment
This talk really troubled me. I'm involved in various things that try to encourage more people (including women) into games, but in my opinion talks like this, and the attitude that comes with it, do more harm that good.

Running a studio is hard enough, as is recruiting good candidates. No-one responsible for recruitment is going to make their job harder, nor should they, by trying to recruit more women through any positive discrimination process. We put out job ads, review applications, interview and hire based on skills. I would love to have more female applicants, but it doesn't happen.

The problem is much younger, when girls are at school. For the record, I personally believe that the industry would benefit from more women (a more diverse work force is a better place to work, creates more diverse products for a more diverse audience...), but whilst industry can help and lots of us are pro-active in trying to encourage more people to consider games as a great career path, it is the education system that is supposed to be the primary source for education, so it is demotivating to be lectured about how it’s solely our responsibility within the industry. If Chi had come in and said 'this is what we're trying to do as a government... it would be great if you as industry could help in these ways... and what can we as a government do to help you to hire more women?' that would have gone down well, but saying it's our responsibility and implying it's the industry's fault show lack of understanding about how the government and industry can work together and it is not productive. Schemes like funding guest speakers at schools to encourage women in tech and games would go further.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Ella Romanos on 10th May 2013 4:20pm

Posted:A year ago

#22

Jim Webb
Executive Editor/Community Director

2,232 2,161 1.0
In high school, I tried courting this girl in class. She kept saying no, she wasn't interested. I tried changing a few things to see if that would change her interest. Wasn't happening. Eventually I came to realize that she simply wasn't interested. Something I knew all along but I just didn't want to accept. And I ended up wasting a lot of time and energy being something I wasn't hoping that she'd like me.

Turns out that she just didn't want to be a part of something she wasn't interested in. Go figure.

Posted:A year ago

#23

Tim Swan
Technical Director

10 9 0.9
@Jade - there's two reasons I can think of. Firstly, having a broader spectrum of opinions and perspectives is normally a benefit (i.e. designing an experience with a really narrow set of perspectives and experiences is often less rich) - having more women employees would enable this. Secondly, the games industry specifically still has a lot of idiocy when it comes to planning and scoping (although it's undoubtedly improving) which has historically been driven by the majority of employees being young single men and I can only see that improving if there's proportionally less of them around.

(edit) @Ella - you've hit the nail on the head.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Tim Swan on 10th May 2013 5:36pm

Posted:A year ago

#24

Jade Law
Senior concept artist

72 291 4.0
@Tim
Saying we need more women in games because the numbers is low is silly, its an arbitrary number. If you want a broad spectrum of opinions then you need to make sure youre hiring a broad spectrum of people of diffrent gender/ages/backgrounds/cultures/countries/religions etc etc
There is no exact number, theres already a reasonable amount of women working in games.
The things you say having more women would enable is really individualistic.

Im all for more women in games, and more young single men, and whoever else WANTS to work in games.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Jade Law on 10th May 2013 5:57pm

Posted:A year ago

#25

Benjamin Crause
Supervisor Central Support

79 36 0.5
I believe there is no problem but rather a cultural factor at play. Woman are just not that interested in this field. Many woman are still taught by family to stay home and take care of children. Also the technological sector got indeed a stigma which however is inaccurate. There are so many programs all over Europe to bring young girls and woman closer to technology and related jobs. The industry can't do much more than offering insight and providing open job positions. Its up to the ladies to apply and to take it. They are as much welcome as any male applicant.

Posted:A year ago

#26

David Serrano
Freelancer

298 270 0.9
@Eric Pallavicini

Yes, it's not the game industry's fault that more women don't pursue careers in software development or programming. But this is not the issue or problem with the game development community. The issue and problem is the preferences, needs and sensibilities of almost half of the existing audience are not adequately represented in design and development processes. More importantly, the development community doesn't understand this is without question, preventing the medium from taking the next logical steps in its evolution.

So while recruiting more women into ICT is a problem for governments and academia to address, how to best serve consumers will always be the responsibility of developers and publishers. And if the preferences, needs and sensibilities of almost half of the existing audience are not proportionally represented in design and development processes, then developers and publishers are not properly serving the average consumer, male or female. Which in turn, severely limits the appeal of most games and the medium. In other industries, the solution would be clear: restructure organizational charts and remove technical expertise requirements from senior level creative positions so companies can recruit talent who's preferences and sensibilities are more closely aligned with the average consumer.

Developer and publishers are of course free to continue with business as usual if they choose. But as Trinity warned Neo in The Matrix: "You've been down there. You already know that road. You know exactly where it ends. And I know that's not where you want to be." I think this is the conflict at the heart of the matter.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by David Serrano on 11th May 2013 9:04pm

Posted:A year ago

#27

Chris Payne
Associate Lead Programmer

33 68 2.1
@Jade - to clarify, I don't think we have to hit a magical statistic that perfectly matches the population balance, that would be ridiculous. But when the industry gender balance is so WILDLY biased towards males, something is clearly unusual about the industry.

I don't buy the "maybe women just don't WANT to create games" argument. It doesn't address the underlying issue of *why* women aren't interested, and basically dismisses the issue as "not a real problem".

@JimW - the plural of anecdote is not data :)

Posted:A year ago

#28

Jim Webb
Executive Editor/Community Director

2,232 2,161 1.0
Chris, certainly it's not a direct translation into data but there is some truth behind it all.

For instance, what was the male to female studio ratio in your programming classes? Chances are they were highly favorable toward men. Why? Women are not as interested in programming as men.

Point is, if the interest isn't there, then all the changes in the world on the other end won't mean anything.

Posted:A year ago

#29
I do agree partly with developers that it is not their sole re4sponsibility to try to nurture a more diverse population of developers in our industry - the government simply needs to start recognising the games industry as a viable and economically valuable market in the UK - and they just don't. Media outlets don;t help by pinning lord only knows how many social travesties in the news on 'mindless killing simulators' ignoring the socio-economic problems at the heart of such crimes and activity (with games and other media being nothing mroe than triggers at best!).

However there is a point to be considered here - and I do think many commentors on this topic look at it from the wrong perspective (not mention people like Chi do present it from the wrong perspective also.

The main issues will be that there is a set of cultures around game development as there are any industry, club, even a particualr bar or restauarant will have this! Many of these aspects for whatever reasons have not attracted women QUICKLY enough to the industry. They HAVE been attracted though and the latest generation and mobile/social gamingh has done more diversigy in the last 5-7 years than the previous 30. There is an element of change being gradual and that what was once dominated by teenage male whizkinds knocking out action/arcade type titles (perfectly fine) will now be dominated y a much wider range of people now that tools, content and accessibility to creating games all becomes greater (such as To the Moon, Proteus and more - hell the inspiration for Portal was a studen project that had more than a lot to dow tih Kim Swift - hello??)

Because the industry is maturing.

And that takes time.

BUT there is one thing that developers do need to consider which is how they can actively make themselves more attractive to women and other diverse sets of people to attract them for the same reasons people like Chris and Tim (from BossAlien) have stated. And the industry does lack some things that will naturally attract more interest from people - especially when they are growing up.
For example there does need to be more female role models as these work for all walks of life - how many people gravitate towards their favourite actor, footballer, etc which then generates interest for said career path (at least potentially).
We have more now such as Jade Raymond, Kim Swift and Amy Hennig as examples but compare that to how many role models there are on the other side.
Warren Spector, Will Wright, Harvey Smityh, Peter Molyneux, Clint Hocking, Ray Muzyka (OK he's gone now but you see my point) - and many of these have created intelligent diverse games (Will apparently pushed for as close to a 50/50 split dev team so that a balanced set of gender sensibilities would feed into the Sims so it appealed to a broad range and accurately reflected what people would expect from such a 'relationship/lifestyle' simulator - dont know how true it is though).

Point being that the industry does need more role models, more successstories so that this ball gathers momentum, then they will start to come naturally as they see for themselves 9in the press, the games, the interviews etc) a more diverse industry - but the industry can help itself with that first push.
I know it's not easy and it's the last thing many developers need when they are already running a studio, managing teams and trying to recruit the right talent - positive discrimination has no place in hiring - it's still discriminating.
But how it presents and advertises itself in years to come would do wonders to tap into such a wide pool of potential game dev heroes.

Isn't that the kind of dialogue we should be having around this issue?
Doesn't it seem to make more sense rather than finger pointing, apportioning blame. Hey the indutry diversified by god knows how much in the last 5 years in terms of players attracted - it can be done here as well with the right mindset and attitude shift.

Posted:A year ago

#30
Sorry for the spelling mistakes - was in a rush:)

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Pete Leonard on 14th May 2013 1:36pm

Posted:A year ago

#31

Adam Campbell
Associate Producer

1,137 914 0.8
Sorry for the spelling mistakes - was in a rush:)
No prob.

Posted:A year ago

#32

Login or register to post

Take part in the GamesIndustry community

Register now