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MP highlights lack of women in games industry

Labour MP Chi Onwurah says only 6 per cent of UK ICT workers are female

The hot topic of women in games was raised in parliament this week, as Labour MP Chi Onwurah put pressure on the government to provide more than just "warm words" to increase the number of women working in ICT and video game development roles.

"It is certainly the case that the video games industry is a modern one; one would hope that it would be reflective of society, including those who play games, but it is not," she told the House Of Commons.

"My figures show that only 6 per cent of those who work in ICT in the UK games industry are women, despite the fact that they make up 50 per cent of those who play the games."

She added that she had approached a number of large technology companies in the UK for information on the percentage of female employees, and revealed that Google and Microsoft had refused to provide that data on the grounds of confidentiality.

"My figures show that only 6 per cent of those who work in ICT in the UK games industry are women"

"That is rather strange, because it suggests either that Google and Microsoft do not know how to aggregate and anonymise such information-which, given that they are leaders in big data management, is worrying-or that they have so few women employees that giving the figure would necessarily identify individuals. That is also very worrying," she said.

" I am worried that Microsoft and Google, which are role models in their own right, do not appear to want to let anyone know how well-or how badly-they are doing. "

She argued the government needed to provide more than "mere warm words of support" to address the situation, and called for more engagement with large technology employers, and a shift in the attitudes that lead to boys' toys featuring ICT components, and girls' toys being pink and patronising.

"As well as improving the image of ICT, we need to look at the working environment of women in ICT, and at higher, secondary and, very importantly, primary education, which my hon. Friend mentioned, and careers advice. We also need to look at our culture, which socialises girls to think that ICT is not for them."

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Latest comments (10)

Jason Avent Studio Head / Creative Director, TT Games Publishing7 years ago
I would really like to have a more balanced male/female mix in our industry. It would be really positive for all of us. Women don't seem to like technical or engineering jobs though. I did a civil engineering degree and out of what must have been a few hundred students in my year, only one was female. This is a much older career path than ICT or video games but it has a lot of very similar characteristics including being male dominated. What I'm saying is that this isn't a new problem. If it's even a problem at all. The only discrimination here is that women seem to discriminate against choosing highly technical careers.

The argument about the fact that 50% of the games market is female is specious. 50% of car drivers are probably women, but very few women would want to build one. Again, I'm using my visits to coventry university's car design courses as reference for my opinion. I may be wrong.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Jason Avent on 26th April 2013 10:24am

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Dave Herod Senior Programmer, Codemasters7 years ago
@Jason - That's pretty much what I was thinking. I'd like to see a better balance too but you can't force people to do something they don't want to do.
"My figures show that only 6 per cent of those who work in ICT in the UK games industry are women, despite the fact that they make up 50 per cent of those who play the games."
How many children's books are written by children?
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Fran Mulhern , Recruit3D7 years ago
Publicity seeking MP throws figures into the air to give her comments a sense of respectability. Nothing to see here, move on.
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Show all comments (10)
Greg Knight Freelance Developer 7 years ago
Its certainly true that the majority of programmers are male, but women artists, animators, video editors, designers are legion.
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Jade Law Senior concept artist, Reloaded Productions7 years ago
Only 6% of developers are female.... soooo?
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Emily Knox Associate Designer, CCP Games7 years ago
"My figures show that only 6 per cent of those who work in ICT in the UK games industry are women, despite the fact that they make up 50 per cent of those who play the games."
But playing games and making games are different things, I can't imagine we'll ever have a mirror-image gender ratio of consumers and developers in any industry. Not every consumer aspires to be a developer. I believe in the notion that with more women playing games, more women will pursue interest in a career, but I don't think we communicate those career options or how to obtain them very effectively to children/teens regardless of gender.

Last month Chi Onwurah opened the Newcastle Discovery Museum's trailblazers exhibition, to show a history of notable women in STEM industries both past and present, at a careers/exhibition day they put on presentations, workshops and stands mostly fronted by women, but with an even gender mix taking part. At our stand it was overwhelmingly apparent that no-one I talked to had been presented with or shown the possibilities in games development before, this was all new, I'd be hard pressed to say whether more boys or more girls came over to ask questions. With regards to girls specifically in programming, this piece by Emma Mulqueeny should definitely be of interest: How to put girls off from all forms of programming/tech

Edit: Meant to summarise, what's more important to me is that careers and skills are visible to everyone rather than any final gender ratios we end up with as a result.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Emily Knox on 26th April 2013 5:52pm

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Bonnie Patterson Narrative Designer, Writer 7 years ago
@Jason - it's a much more deep-seated problem than women not "liking" technical careers.

Girls are pushed away from sciences starting at a very young age. It's much better than it used to be, to the point that the old statistics that say "Women just aren't as good at science and maths as the best men" are starting to show that equal intellectual capability really is a real thing when girls are actually given the chance.

They're also pushed away from gaming as a hobby. For every FragDoll who can mix it up in smacktalk or brush it off, there are about a dozen other women who meet the average gaming community and just walk away from the absolutely horrible reception they get. For every little girl playing the latest Zelda with her parents, there are others who asked for it and got the latest Barbie Princess Makeup Castle (which is not to say there's anything wrong with such games, but to say that the view is still there among many loving parents that their daughters would like them better than other games, or be better off playing them).

But to say that the "only" discrimination occurring is that women choose other sorts of career is to ignore every single thing women have said recently about the struggle they have had simply getting into the games industry and maintaining a comfortable place in it despite owning tits. Seriously, did you miss the Hothead Rants at E3? The #1reasonwhy streams? Brenda Romero's resignation? Did you not see the response to Jennifer Hepler? Anita Sarkeesian? Lillian Cohen-Moore?

So yes, there is a smaller base pool of women looking to work in games thanks to institutionalized sexism in the school system and society as a whole, and it's going to take time to change that. But please don't brush off the huge amount of evidence that actually, the games industry as a whole has enough sexism in it to put women off, because there are actual women out there telling you it does. And they are in a much better position to know than you are, because that's what Male Privilege means: if you've never experienced bias based on your gender, race or sexuality, you don't realize that your "normal" is actually a barbed-wire fence for someone else.
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Paul Johnson Managing Director / Lead code monkey, Rubicon Development7 years ago

OFF we go again. Woohooo.....
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Paul Smith Dev 7 years ago
Its all genetics, the majority of girls and women just aren't interested in game development you cannot force that to change. What people need to focus on is the girls and women who do want to, but for whatever reasons feel like they can't.

That "50% of gamer's are female" statistic is total crap by the way.
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Paul Johnson Managing Director / Lead code monkey, Rubicon Development7 years ago
>> I knew you would say that. What took you so long Paul ? :D

I was trying not to add to the post count, but after a while I realised my powers are weak. :)
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