EA talent officer: "The problem is not sexism"

Gabrielle Toledano on the three secrets of women and the industry

EA's Gabrielle Toledano has revealed what she believes are three secrets surrounding sexism in the games industry, including that blaming men is a cop-out, and that there aren't enough women applying for jobs.

"Rather than blame the Majority just because they are the majority, I believe the solution starts with us - women," the executive vice president and chief talent officer of Electronic Arts wrote for Forbes.

"It's easy to blame men for not creating an attractive work environment - but I think that's a cop-out. If we want more women to work in games, we have to recognise that the problem is not sexism."

While those comments would seem to ignore recent controversies over booth babes and the #1reasonwhy hashtag on Twitter, her three main points are interesting, especially given her recruitment background. She explained more women need to identify as gamers, and that actually, the industry is desperate to hire more of them.

"Sexism is an unfortunate reality of our times"

"I'm proud to say that at EA, we have over twice the industry average of women in our workforce. But it's still not enough," she said.

"We'd love to hire more women but we can't find enough of them to hire, especially in engineering."

She encouraged women not be put off by reports of sexism, which was a "unfortunate reality of our times," and instead to join the industry when it was at the "most dramatic point of change in its history."

Toledano joined EA in 2006, but has also worked in human resources at Siebel Systems and Microsoft.

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Latest comments (13)

Paul Johnson Managing Director / Lead code monkey, Rubicon Development7 years ago
Finally, a piece that actually nails the issue without any flag waving and foot stamping at non minorities. The fact that it's also from a female in a large HR department adds additional gravitas.
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Bruce Everiss Marketing Consultant 7 years ago
As Paul says.

Very sensible and reasonable.
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I went through GCSE, A-Level computing and an engineering degree with no female classmates. Even the more technical sister degrees had female students more interested in management than anything technical. We need to promote our industry earlier in the education system.
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Show all comments (13)
Sense & Sensibility! Three cheers for Gabrielle on tackling the issue right on the head
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M.H. Williams Staff Writer, USgamer7 years ago
Can't find enough young women to hire? Want to get more young girls interested? Make games they want to see, not ones that push them away. And yes, create a more welcoming culture (corporate and otherwise) overall.


A few snippets:
"Cathy Trower and her colleagues at the Collaborative on Academic Careers in Higher Education (COACHE) at Harvard University found that female STEM faculty express lower job satisfaction than do their male peers. Lower satisfaction leads to higher turnover and a loss of talent in science and engineering. Trower’s research, profiled in chapter 7, suggests that the climate of science and engineering departments is closely related to satisfaction of female faculty and that providing effective mentoring and work-life policies can help improve job satisfaction and, hence, the retention of female STEM faculty."

"In the study of STEM professionals in the private sector described earlier, Hewlett et al. (2008) found that many women appear to encounter a series of challenges at midcareer that contribute to their leaving careers in STEM industries. Women cited feelings of isolation, an unsupportive work environment, extreme work schedules, and unclear rules about advancement and success as major factors in their decision to leave."

"A belief that one can succeed in a STEM field is important but is not the only factor in establishing interest in a STEM career. Culturally prescribed gender roles also influence occupational interest (Low et al., 2005). A review of child vocational development by Hartung et al. (2005) found that children—and girls especially—develop beliefs that they cannot pursue particular occupations because they perceive them as inappropriate for their gender."

"Therefore, even individuals who espouse a belief of gender equity and equality may harbor implicit biases about gender and, hence, negative gender stereotypes about women and girls in science and math (Valian, 1998). Nosek et al. (2002a) found that majorities of both women and men of all racial-ethnic groups hold a strong implicit association of male with science and female with liberal arts."

It's a well-cited report and worth a solid read.
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Mihai Cozma Indie Games Developer 7 years ago
All I know is that while I was following university courses (computer science), there were very few girls following CS courses. There was nothing sexism related in there, there were just more boys applying for computer science faculty than girls, while girls being more attracted by economics or medical fields. Further on, there were less girls interested in the hardware part of CS as they were more into the software side of it. This is then reflected in the work force of various tech companies hiring these graduates. So the article author is right in stating that this should start with the early education of young ladies into adopting the engineering path.

(I'm talking only about engineering here as this is where my experience lies).

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Mihai Cozma on 21st January 2013 4:44pm

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Diego Santos Lećo Creative Director, GameBlox Interactive7 years ago
I have never received a female application for a job in my company in 4 years, despite hundreds of men applying for the jobs available. And our environment is as good as any "I.T." company, highly praised in our region.

My theory is that sexism (although existent and a serious problem) is not what it "pushing women away". It is just that I.T. in general is not an attractive field for women, and for the other jobs available, they are just not as invested in games in general to be interested in making them. I'm not saying that women don't play games, but they seem to look at games more from the consumer perspective, not as a possible job.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Diego Santos Lećo on 21st January 2013 5:06pm

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James Berg Games User Researcher, EA Canada7 years ago
I work as a user researcher, and we're constantly struggling to find women gamers to participate in game playtests. Get more girls gaming, and we'll see more pursue careers in the field. Our team has two women, both with Master's degrees, and both gamers - we need more like 'em!
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Joel Deziel Audio Lead, Electronic Arts7 years ago
We can't let ourselves off the hook, though. Gabrielle is definitely correct with her comments, but there is still plenty of sexism in the industry (and other industries) and it needs to stop.
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Oliver Jones Software Developer 7 years ago
Sexism exists in the games industry for sure. You just have to look at stuff like booth babes and the over sexed female characters in some games and marketing. But I think you will find the games industry isn't any more sexist than any other male dominated industry. Walk into certain auto-repair garages and I'm sure you'll find a playboy calendar or something equality inappropriate adorning the wall.

The problem is multifaceted. As Gabrielle Toledano identifies there are not enough women applying for games jobs. Which is probably because not enough women are graduating with game dev related degrees (in art or engineering). Even though many girls do well in high-school in science and maths (for the engineering side of things) they are not going on into the technical or artistic fields that game development depends on. We need to identify why this is and address that before we can solve the gender equality problem in game development.

When I did my game development related training the men seriously out-numbered the women and so it was when I was working in a game development studio.

This gender inequality has been evident in every IT related company I've worked at, not just games. It is so rare to find women involved in IT. If they are involved, it is even rarer to find female software or systems engineers. You also can't blame the lack of females in IT on oversexed box art or booth babes. I don't see Oracle plastering pin up girls on their marketing materials.
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Bruce Everiss Marketing Consultant 7 years ago
I don't think that the titillation or aesthetic appreciation of calendars and booth babes is the problem when it comes to sexism in the industry.
The problem with sexism in the industry is that there are not enough female candidates for jobs. So the problem is within most female minds that they would rather be doctors, lawyers etc than game developers. So if we want more females in game development (an excellent idea) then we need to go right back to the stage where they choose a career.

As for sexism against suitable candidates who do want to have development careers then I am sure that this happens. Though not in the majority of companies. And where it does happen it is stupid, small minded and harmful to the company, because they are not realising the full potential of their staff.

I think sexism will die out. Games are now ubiquitous, so a far higher percentage of females are playing games than ever before. So more will be wanting to make them. More relevant perhaps is the maths gender gap, is it just a myth, or not? There is really compelling research for both arguments. And there is equally compelling criticism of both lots of research, so it is difficult to form a balanced view. I think that it is utter tosh and most females are far better mathematicians than me!
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Kevin Clark-Patterson Lecturer in Games Development, Lancaster and Morecambe College7 years ago
How about...

BBC News Technology
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Andrew Howat Associate Producer, Ubisoft Reflections7 years ago
For everyone reaching the consensus that women are lost earlier than entering the industry, I want to throw down the gauntlet.
Why not sign up to be a STEMnet ambassador (certainly, if you're in the UK - I don't know what schemes there are abroad) and go in and show that working in the games industry is a viable option for both genders before kids close their minds to the prospect?
STEMnet ambassador scheme
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