IGDA survey underscores industry's racial, gender disparities

Only 3% of non-white developers hold senior management roles, and only 3% of women earn more than $150,000

The International Game Developers Association has released another wave of results from its Developer Satisfaction Survey. The group today released an assortment of statistics underscoring continued disparities throughout the games industry for women and developers of color, as shown by the results of its 2015 survey.

IGDA executive director Kate Edwards told that there continue to be significant differences in pay and opportunity between demographics. While 10% of men earn $150,000 or more, only 3% of women in the industry find themselves in that top pay range. Women and men were almost equally likely to report working in a management role of some kind (37% of women, 38% of men), but women were less likely to hold senior management positions (19% of women, compared to 23% of men).

The picture is more striking for developers of color, where only 3% of respondents held a senior management role. When asked about the top pay range figure for developers of color, Edwards said that 45% of white developers make over $75,000 a year, while only 35% of non-white developers make that much. Developers of color are also over-represented at the low end of the income scale, where 26% of non-white developers made less than $15,000 annually, compared to 17% of white developers.

Those disparities are perceived differently by each group. When asked if they felt there is equal treatment and opportunity for all in the games industry, 49% of non-white developers said there was. That was up from 23% in the 2014 Developer Satisfaction survey, but Edwards couldn't point to any specific factor in the time between those surveys that could be attributed for such a leap.

Speaking more generally, women and men alike were increasingly likely to say the industry failed to provide equal treatment and opportunity. 67% of women saw the industry as not providing that equality, up from 55% in 2014. Meanwhile, 46% of men saw the industry playing field as being slanted against some, up from 44% the year before.

"I think a big part of it is we're seeing the perception from two angles," Edwards said. "The men basically see that yes, there is a problem, but it's not as big a problem as the women see it from their perspective."

As for how to make the industry more equitable for developers of all kinds, there are a number of problems, among them the lack of a good model to follow. Hollywood and Silicon Valley are the most obvious parallels for the games industry from a creative and technical perspective, but both places are themselves struggling with issues of race and gender representation within the workforce, arguably even moreso than the games industry.

"I think there's an opportunity for the game industry to actually show some level of leadership, being an artistic-technical kind of industry that we are. We can actually make changes that better model those who are playing our games and using our products," Edwards said, adding, "While there are a lot of good programs out there attempting to do this, especially on local and regional levels, I think the industry as a whole needs to do even more and do a bigger push to try and attract more people of color, more women, and more people who should be a part of this industry. We want them to be a part of this industry because we know the more diverse our workforce, the more diverse our game types and content and gameplay can potentially be."

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Latest comments (1)

Bonnie Patterson Narrative Designer, Writer 5 years ago
Oh dear gods, PLEASE don't follow the Hollywood model, it's definitely much, MUCH worse than the Games Industry.

The fact is, there won't be a good model to follow because so very few sectors have done a decent job with diversity. The legal field is outstanding, if I am remembering right, and that's because it's promoted itself right the way through the system.

The first thing to do is normalise the idea that a games development career could be open to a given demographic. Show them some examples, talk about the thing in a way that makes it not weird to picture themselves in that role. To have to be "groundbreaking" or a "trailblazer" can be quite intimidating. Kids know that boys and girls can be lawyers because there are a whole bunch of lawyer shows with mixed genders in there, but unless there's a whole bunch more material where "Halt and Catch Fire" came from, we probably can't do much from the TV front. Unless a superhero has a game dev secret identity? I'll go ask.

But we can talk in schools. Careers advisors could be advised to bring it up as a possibility to students of any sort who have strong logic and maths skills (programmers), creative and communication skills (designers) or art and software skills (artz). The people who make those career pamphlets could take photos showing more diverse groups (does the IGDA do that or do local authorities or schools make them?) It's better to get in earlier than later, so that there are SEVERAL chances to showcase game development as a future, rather than just one in the sixth form.

Then there's the matter of how you promote the vacancy - is your recruitment agent likely to appeal across demographics? Do they have a good track record for placing diverse candidates or is it obvious that it never even occurs to them to put forward certain types of candidate for certain jobs? Do they advertise their vacancies to a wide range of consumers or do their ads only appear in Guns and Boobies Magazine? Does that recruiter have any offices in areas predominantly populated by minorities or are all their local applicants likely to get lost in a snow drift if they wear white in winter? And so on and so forth.

Events like the Pixelles seem to have a lot to contribute in diversifying the industry, and a few similar schemes have arisen in areas with high populations of people of colour living in very poor economic circumstances. Our industry has a LOT to offer in terms of redressing poverty, and as much to gain in fresh ideas.

Employers need educating as well. I hear so much about the doom maternity leave inflicts on a company, yet in this country, not only are men entitled to parental leave as well, but the government pays you back. Hell, if you're officially a "Small Company", they give you EXTRA money, 3% above whatever you spend. Plus, we're not all baby factories - it's ruddy ridiculous when employers say that women's pay is reduced because of the possibility of maternity leave, when those pay cuts are being applied to women over 35, most of whom couldn't get pregnant with a scaffold and an oil can.

Then there's the games themselves, and the gaming community: people who play games are, after all, much more likely to want to make them. Inclusion in games has come on leaps and bounds in the last few years, though as with most issues of representation, if you actually cold-bloodedly count titles, those that include women at an equivalent level to men are still few by comparison, and those that represent PoC still fewer (and I'm pretty sure that no, the "Overweight Pimp for Laughing At" trope does not count).

As for the community, well, that's definitely a problem, or at least a minority of it is a much larger problem than it is a contribution. Every time a brigade manages to get a woman fired, others at that company start updating their CVs as well. Don't let other people's malice dictate your HR policy.
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