UK govt warns industry on gender inequality

Minister for Equalities: Companies "risk being uncompetitive" if they fail to address issue

Yesterday's Women in Games strand at the Develop conference in Brighton has received a strong message of support from the UK government in the form of a letter from Lynne Featherstone MP, Minister for Equalities, has learned.

In the letter the Minister outlines the importance to the games industry of seeking a greater gender balance in the workplace, warning that some companies "risk being uncompetitive" if they fail to address the problem.

"It's a problem for the industry as a whole, as organisations filled with people who look the same, sound the same and have the same life experiences can all too easily end up thinking the same," wrote the Minister.

"Diverse organisations reflect their customers better, are likely to understand them better and offer better products and services as a result. Companies that can't see the value that women bring to the workplace are extremely short-sighted as they lose out on talent and skills of half the population.

"They risk being uncompetitive in a very fast-moving world by not being able to chose from all available employees. Equality is as good for businesses as it is for women and society."

The full text of the message, obtained exclusively by, is as follows:

"With the likes of Lara Croft, Jill Valentine and Alyx Vance well established on the nation's consoles there are no shortage of female characters in videogames, but behind the scenes things have for too long been dominated by men - perhaps explaining why the likes of Miss Croft look the way they do!

"This is a problem not just for women who want to work in gaming and girls who are given unrealistic expectations about how they should look. It's a problem for the industry as a whole, as organisations filled with people who look the same, sound the same and have the same life experiences can all too easily end up thinking the same.

"Diverse organisations reflect their customers better, are likely to understand them better and offer better products and services as a result. Companies that can't see the value that women bring to the workplace are extremely short-sighted as they lose out on talent and skills of half the population.

"They risk being uncompetitive in a very fast-moving world by not being able to chose from all available employees. Equality is as good for businesses as it is for women and society.

"As a government we're working hard to support women in the workplace, for example looking at making the right to request flexible working available to all and introducing a system of shared parental leave. But this is not something the government can do alone - we need the private sector to do its bit as well.

"That's why I was so pleased to hear about this conference, and I'm really sorry that I'm not able to be there personally. I'm glad you're also considering what more can be done and I look forward to hearing your conclusions. Best wishes for a successful conference.

"Lynne Featherstone MP, Minister for Equalities"

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Latest comments (45)

Equality is great and there are some amazing female talent out there in the industry.
At the end of the, it isnt the gender that is the issue.

Its the best talented person for the job who is a great teamplayer, good as a lead when they need to be, mature, responsible and there to grow with you when it counts, that counts. Gender is not longer a primary issue. Talent is.
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Ivan Pedersen Lead Art, Geomerics7 years ago
I'm not sure Miss Croft is quite the focal point she used to be - television, movies and glossy mags are probably a lot more guilty of what the writer is accusing the industry off. Valid point nevertheless.
I would love to see more women working in the industy. I can think of a fair few women in senior roles around various games companies but this doesn't seem to extend to the dev teams.
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Andy Payne Chair/founder, AppyNation7 years ago
Completely agree with all of this. Not enough women in the games industry and even less hold senior exec positions at publishers and developers. Needs to change.
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Show all comments (45)
Gareth Livett Designer 7 years ago
I have to agree with Dr. Wong. Employers should be looking to hire the best person for the job, they shouldn't have to look at gender or race etc. Employing someone that can not completely do the job you want because you have a gender divide or is overwhelmed by one nationality/race is just loony.

If getting the best team means having all male or all female or all asian etc, then I'm all for it. This should be true for every work place not just games.
I'll probably get told I'm sexiest so some thing for this last comment, but I'm going to assume that there are more males wanting to be in the industry anyway. There was only 2 females on my uni course. So its expected that there is a male dominance.
I mean what's going to happen if the government suddenly acted on this report and forced everywhere to have a 50/50 divide. Would there be some kind of fight over hiring?
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The TIGA Games Software Developersí Salary Survey in association with Hewitt Associates back in April found that only 6.6% of the survey workforce is female. That is 15 guys for every 1 woman. It is not a great statistic. The question is whether anything can be done to encourage more women to apply for the jobs that do exist in the industry.
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Ashley Tarver Indie 7 years ago
No one disagrees with equality in the workplace no matter what the sex/race. However, at all times, the best person (experience, qualities and qualifications) should always get the job regardless of sex/race.
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Kingman Cheng Illustrator and Animator 7 years ago
Well as Dr. Wong has kindly pointed out it's about who's best for the job, gender is not the agenda (Rhyme time).
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Claire Blackshaw Senior Online Consultant, Sony Computer Entertainment Europe7 years ago
You need to actively pursue a diverse workplace. Sometimes that means measures need to be taken in the short term which seem irrational. It reminds me strongly of the post-apartheid South Africa and how measures needed to be taken to address the vast inequalities.

To give you an idea of how bias the industry is I happen to know a top-tier student who after finishing their second year on a three year games programming course decided to switch to a more generic IT course as she felt intimidated and uncomfortable in the environment which was promoted.
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Michael Rawlinson Director General, UKIE7 years ago
May be the skills review being headed up by Ian Livingstone, will come up with recommendations on this topic. I think everyone recongineses the facts, changing the landscpe will be a much harder problem.

ELSPA/UKIE will be looking at how we engage with people who potential want to work in the industry at a much earlier stage, i.e. Secondary school age. Our objective is to raise the interest of all students in the industry, to sign post them to study the right subjects, and to hopefully ignight their imagination and enthusiasm for sudying Maths, physics and science through the magic of interactive entertainment.
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Mike Rusby 3d character modeller 7 years ago
Having worked in both games and advertising I would say there is definitely a problem in games.
Plenty of females working in 3d in the latter
So it not really a question of talent imho, just that the perception of the games industry and the kind of environment that entails is not as positive as other branches of cg/digital art.
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Chris Nash QA Engineer 7 years ago
I wonder if Ms. Featherstone has played Half-Life 2, Resident Evil etc., or was just supplied with names and pictures to use as references?

In any case, diversity is all well and good, but employing a woman over a man just because she's a woman in some kind of "affirmitive action" policy is wrong. Employers should always pick the best person for the job, regardless of gender or any other factor.
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There are some amazing female leads in art, and management and QA and recruitment worldwide.
From personal experience with regards to women in games.

Eg. Pixar have a senior female lead who is a expert in hair/fur
Eg. CCP/Ubisoft/Naughty Dog have great senior recruitment manages who take the pains to know every member, worklife within their divisions, and sometimes acts to lubricate the joints in the great cog of game production.
Eg. Amazing prominent female leads in management/producers 2K Marin, Naughty Dog
Eg. Great senior concept artists in games. Laurel @ splash damage gets a special mention for guns, mayhem, dinosaurs and action sequences

I still feel it is a matter of sufficient experience, exposure and talent within the different echelons of game and entertainment industry to encourage both males and females into the industry.

Best artist gets my vote in our studio. Interestingly we have a 1:1 male/female ratio in our studio (but it was not planned as such). It was just about their skills/talent.

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Tom Keresztes Programmer 7 years ago
I think of that 6% most of them are in art or qa, i could still name all the female programmers whom i worked with during my career, and only a few in games industry. But they are there.
Odd, but roughly half of my class in Software Engineering were female - and most of them (except only one) does not work as a developer.
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You can lead a horse to water...

(but what if it wants sparkling....or good ole guiness, ale, smoothie or fresh juice)

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Tom Keresztes Programmer 7 years ago
@Claire Blackshaw, i believe your example states problems with the education system, not with the industry.
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@ Thomas - Indeed.

Its both a question of education & perception (not every parent is going to be keen for their daughters to work in the games sector, whereas creative industries are encouraged.

Not every gal and lady wants to work in the games industry (traditionally and still is the mainstay of geekdom/fanboys and folks wanting to make a great entertainment culture)

And as a final note, I feel its unfair to single out additional support to either male/female in any industry.
One can argue fathers and males are missing out in all this additional top heavy pro women support. Whereas I am all for encouragement and awareness campaigns to truly explain what our industry sector is like.

If one wants to be truly radical, how about some tax relief with every female recruited into the industry. For example, during maternity leave, this impacts seriously on SMEs. As such, a reduction/abolition of employers tax and contributions for the affected female employee during the time required to hire a substitute worker would seem fair (including abolition of PAYE for the hired substitue worker).
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Claire Blackshaw Senior Online Consultant, Sony Computer Entertainment Europe7 years ago
@Tom Education is key, and their are some great initiatives like Skillset which are improving things.

I do think that more diverse studios should be encouraged, also culturally, possibly by government schemes. There is a problem an ignoring it won't solve it. To often in these cases the old guard bring out the "best talent" argument. I agree you need standards but unless you actively invest in change the status quo will remain.

I have heard positive things from many larger studios who are actively trying to address their diversity issues. I think these studio's will prove the long term benefit, and hopefully be rewarded for it.
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Richard Westmoreland Senior Game Designer, Codemasters Birmingham7 years ago
I don't think it's case of discrimination here, I'm pretty sure most games companies would give a female a job over a male if they had identical skillsets in order to address gender balance issues.

I think the problem comes from not nearly as many females wanting jobs in the games industry, or indeed most IT related jobs. I don't think the positive discrimination route is the way to go, but I do think more females need to be encouraged into IT jobs at an educational level.

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Has anyone ever considered that, perhaps, most women are smart enough to want to "have lives" and thus eschew a career in game development? Let's face it, with the long hours and geek-rich community of game development, ours is not the most "normal" social society of a workplace. We're quite atypical in that regard. It takes a special breed of person to be crazy enough to give up the kind of personal time and society, and then sacrifice those facets of their life just to make games; a career in game development is almost like a "cause" that a game developer passionately believes in to justify those high personal demands of the job.

I think more women in gaming, both playing them AND making them, is a wonderful idea and have been a strong supporter since my career in game development began back in the early 1970s. About 15% of my game development students are ladies. But as you look out the classroom window at the students moving across the campus, you can can tell the game development students from the other schools (fashion design, interior design, culinary arts, etc.) at a glance. We are a (very happy) breed apart. You can bet that few of the guys in my classes were High School football stars and few of the ladies Homecoming queens. Most come in to my classes to find their happiness in life through a career making games. It's a free society, and the many guys I've met in my over 40 years in this industry really enjoy working with ladies (who wouldn't?), but ladies have the power of choice here, and as they choose to find their career happiness elsewhere.

Upon reflection, they're probably making sound choices for their lives and shouldn't be overtly steered into game development. It takes a special person with an almost-devout passion for this career, and the toll it takes one's personal and social life is a major "screening out" process that can be seen among seasoned game developers. Let the ladies go where they will and find their happiness where they may. If they can find it among the society of game developers, I'm know that they will be very happy among the sheik geek elite who are at the very heart of game development and "make it all happen." We are a very special and happy group who spend more hours with each other than with our at-home families for much of the production cycle. For those seeking a more convention life of regular hours and a more "average" social society, a career in game development is probably not the place to be.

Let game development continue to evolve naturally and find its own way without the influences of government steering. Every person in game development, male and female, brings their own influence to our small community, where individuals count for a lot. Our community of game developers is not a "boys club" where no girls are allowed, so much as a "game geek club." And games can be about anything and everything, aimed at any person you care to market to, as long as the product is fun and entertaining. Gender is not a requirement to be "one of us," only a passion for making (and playing) games. Race, creed, gender -- these are not barriers in the game industry; crazy dedication and a real passion for the people and process of making games is -- and should be.

Alan Emrich

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Alan Emrich on 16th July 2010 1:50pm

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Hear hear.

Ultimately, folks wanting to work in the gaming industry needs to be a special breed and owe only one allegiance to one true god/master - gaming.

Kevin Butler said it best :"Because every gamer, is a true gamer. Motion gamer, sitting gamers. Everyone. And though we may pledge fanboy allegiance to different flags, deep down inside we all serve one master, one king.
And his forever may he reign!!!!"
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Ivan Pedersen Lead Art, Geomerics7 years ago
I've worked in the industry for a number of years now, advertising previously. The hours we were doing when working in advertising was quite a bit higher than the average number of hours I've worked across various studios over the last few years. I disagree that you have to be 'crazy' to work in games.

It's a highly creative industry with a need to sell the product to everyone without gender bias. I think the industry might be struggling with hitting this target because of the fact that the gender bias is favouring males amongst game developers.

Re. employing who's best for the job; everybody wants to employ the person who's the best for the job but that's not ultimately the point of the article is it? The fact remains that the industry is still very unbalanced in terms of genders.
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It is a big mistake to think that women want a less qualified woman to take a job at the expense of a more qualified man. Noone wants the quality of a game to diminish. But many people do think that the quality of games could be improved and sold to a much bigger audience if some more thought was given to half the population out there.
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Edward Buffery Head of LQA (UK), Testronic7 years ago
Very good comments, Alan. I can totally see more women happily taking up roles (and being welcomed) in most departments of a games company with a bit more encouragement. However, I think there have always been, and probably always will be, a few areas which are on the whole a lot less appealing to women. One example is coding, where in my experience it's rare to find women who honestly enjoy staying up all night programming something, completely shut of from the world and without any communication with another human being.

Another example is that while I have met many female gamers, I have yet to meet a single woman who shares a passion for overclocking and new PC hardware. I don't think that's because they've been 'put off' by sexism or industry pressure though.
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Tom Keresztes Programmer 7 years ago

Craziness and dedication is different. A game is an art, a masterpiece, not just a product - at least for most of us. It something we are willing norture, care, fine tune.

I don't know any other industry which could be as a proud about its diversity like the British games industry.
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Tom Keresztes Programmer 7 years ago

I remember that i've read an article about the psychology of female gamers - boys play games submersed in the virtual reality, they can identify themselves with the world, while girls tend to prefer the actual puzzle. This is tendency - there are always exceptions. So who lives in a dream world ? ;)
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I think women gamers like the social aspect of thigns, the interactions, the relationships between the NPCs/main leads, the accesorization and associations within a game.
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Nicola Bhalerao Principal Software Architect, Rare Ltd7 years ago
I believe it is the public perception of what it means to work in the games industry that is the biggest barrier to women joining the work force. The correct image needs to be communicated at secondary school age: one of women being treated fairly, reasonable working hours (most of the time!), and most of all - a fun and creative environment. Only then will we get the girls interested in choosing the right career path, and in the numbers needed to get them on the right courses to produce enough qualified women to redress the balance.
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Jeff Wilson7 years ago
I totally agree with the comments that state an person should only be employed if they are the best person for the job, male or female. If more women want opportunities at the Gaming Industry then let them apply for the relevant degree courses rather than for fashion or interior design.

And, those comments from the article that women are given unrealistic expectations on how they should look when applying for a job in gaming is absolute tosh. It is implying that if an applicant does not resemble Jennifer Tate or Lara Croft she won't be employed. Therefore, I suppose the writer would favour an ugly woman over a pretty woman to work at the fashion counter at Macy's or to strut down a catwalk in Milan ? Women make their own expectations of beauty and stick to them.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Jeff Wilson on 16th July 2010 4:51pm

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Mr. Wong, I think the view that allegiance to the God of gaming above all else has led to the destruction of many incredibly talented programmers. I know lots of them personally. (Perhaps you should go back and re-read the EA Spouse debacle). That view, and the hours that go with it, have to go. It's just as damaging to the industry, as our best people drop off from burnout, as is not being more open to diversity.

I head up a studio here in Vancouver, and am a woman. This issue is of huge interest to me, and some great points have been raised. However, I think the reality that many women do get hired, then quit, is missing from the dialogue. I spoke recently to someone at (insert name of large famous indie studio - don't want to open them to a law suite) who told me he had hired a number of women engineers over the years, becuase they were the most qualified, but within three months, they had quit. Now they are adverse to hiring women, "becuase they can't take it". This is backward thinking. Bringing a woman into a studio full of men is tricky business, and there is a lot of literature out the civil right movement and affirmative action research that can help us out. For example, the rule of three. If you hire one, or two women (or minorities) into an all male (or white) environment, they will leave. However, if that number is three or higher, they will stay. It seems to be about what it takes to bring true cultural change. So take down the porn from your locker, stop wearing the MILF t-shirts, and hire three talented women. You'll love the way your studio becomes a healthier and more interesting place. And if just doing it for the sake of doing the right thing doesn't appeal to you, the economic argument is compelling. Women are gaming in greater numbers than ever before. Do you really think you can build for that market without any female talent in your studio?
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James Prendergast Research Chemist 7 years ago
I think a load of guys saying what female gamers/employees 'want' is drawing the conversation away from where it needs to be. Ultimately everything that's been said in this thread is applicable to any person (ignoring their gender or race).

There have been many studies within and without the industry citing how important it is to have multiple viewpoints on a project and this is just one more example. I certainly don't advocate positive discrimination but at the same time i think that some of the issues are to do with how women are perceived to be different. Rather than say "women want to make these choices that end up differently than men" or "women gamers prefer social experiences", instead we should be looking at new ways of teaching in schools (it's been shown that maths, especially, is affected by co-ed presence and teaching methods) and new ways of designing mutually inclusive experiences. After all, a good film is a good film regardless of if it's 'targeted' at a specific demographic.

Differentiation is often discrimination - even though it is not intended.
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@ Brenda

Female to male staffing ratios are interesting. We have had 2-6 female staff for 3 years or more. Sometimes more, sometimes less. From that aspect it is how well the ladies bonded and worked within a open studio team matrix. Interestingly, those that showed the most instinct, leadership and excelled also tended to exhibit either mothering/matriarchal personalities.

Mind you, we are a service support sector and as such are a total multimedia creative studio - whereas your typical game studio will have a wider range of cultural, international and diverse elements of tribalism/ within their own departments.

Long story short, between our our senior staff and directors (mixed male/female panel) we hired the persons most qualified for the job positions and the potential growth in terms of personality, teamwork, leadership and cross lateral thinking and design.

Gender was never a issue
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Tom Keresztes Programmer 7 years ago

They might just left, because they did not like the environment. Working for an indie could be challenging for those used to more traditional development methodologies - indies are usually at two extremes of the spectrum - either die-hard professionals, or quite the opposite. And they are usually short on cash as well, so we cut corners where possible :)
Also, from experience, i know a lot of *male* engineers who had excellent qualifications, but proven inadequate in actual development - for various reasons. Qualifications look nice - on the CV. It does not say anything about the character.

We definitely need a more gender balanced culture though. But it cannot be achieved by forcing it.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Tom Keresztes on 16th July 2010 5:46pm

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Andrew Crystall Designer 7 years ago
A change can only come after studios have updated their working practices. The mere thought of some of the er... less flexible... games management people I've known trying to deal with, say, workers on maternity leave frankly makes my eyes cross.

I'd love more female co-workers - for one thing it's *amazing* how much it cleans up the language and behaviour of some of my male co-workers - but to get there will involve a lot more than simply being open minded about hiring decisions.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Andrew Crystall on 16th July 2010 6:31pm

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Antonia Cullum Talent Manager, Natural Selection7 years ago
Absolutely the best qualified person should get the job and I can't believe any woman would want to think that she had been given a role purely on the basis of her sex and not her skills - that's not doing any favours to anyone. Certainly in development it is also true that there are far more men applying for and being qualified for roles than there are women. But there are far fewer women who actually consider a career working in games. They may love games, they may even be serious gamers but the possibility of actually working in games is just not something they consider - this is not because they would rather work or study 'fashion or interior design' but rather because they do not have visibility on what the industry is like and what role models there are out there and careers they can aspire to.

Those women that do take the leap and decide they want a career in games (and get the qualifications to do so) are often faced with the prospect of working in a studio that is 95% male and this can be intimidating. How many men would really feel comfortable in an environment entirely dominated by women?

Women who have forged a career in games need to be vocal in advocating the industry as the wonderful place to work that it can indeed be - this is not about saying that those female heads of studios, exec producers, lead coders etc are any better than their male counterparts or encouraging any positive discrimination but simply showing the students out there that it can be done and there are strong precedents for doing it.

I also think that the industry needs to open itself up to people with strong transferable skills from outside games. Development in particular is remarkably closed - previous games experience is a pre-requisite for almost every role out there and while of course there are positions that do require x years of experience on AAA titles there are also many that in reality probably don't. A small amount of support and training in house (along with a few lessons in jargon) would go a long way and could bring in some extremely talented people with a lot of passion - whether they are male or female.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Antonia Cullum on 16th July 2010 9:12pm

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Private Industry 7 years ago
I`m all for equality, but as many stated the best person who applies for a job should get the job. If you would hire based on gender and not who would be a better choice chances are in the long run the studio will run into problems because decisions are not made in regards to whats the best for the company.

Also how about there might be less women in the industry because in total % less women then men apply for jobs in the industry. If only a small amount of women look for a job in that field then only a small amount of woman will work in that field.

While the portrait of Lara Croft is obvious where they where going with that, it should be pointed out that the character was created a long time ago when the main audience was young males. Thats quite different to current female characters like Alyx, Elena from Uncharted or the characters from Valkyria Chronicles. While games are popular they are not as popular and mainstream like movies where you come across stereotypes for female characters more often like Transformers just to name one. Games is the smallest problem in regards of giving girls expectations of how they should look, they are still virtual characters and most people are well aware of the fact they are just polygons put together on a PC.

As for the diverse ideas, I`m not sure since different people have different ideas no mater of the gender. Women and men can have great ideas, but it`s not like one might have an idea the other one might never have. For Flower a strong contribution was made by a men and for Uncharted a strong contribution to the game was made by a woman.

Then again that`s just my personal opinion

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Private on 16th July 2010 11:09pm

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James Prendergast Research Chemist 7 years ago
@ Werner: The idea isn't that different people can't have the same ideas.... it's that people from different walks of life will have different perspectives and, all combined, will provide a more enticing and balanced view of the world.

Stick a load of white, middle-class men in a room and you'd think there was no racism or sexism or education problems in the world.... (For an extremely biased example.)

There's also been articles/studies etc. about protagonists and the players' ability to identify with them.... The majority of protagonists are white males... with black ethnics and women coming second.... So where are all the asian and latin/european protagonists? There's a sizeable number of people of those persuations in the world that could be appealed to but are currently not in mainstream game design.

Then you get things like the Russian-backing of games that depict them in a more flattering light as a fair number of western developers tend to paint them as bogeymen along with the nazis (and the poor, maligned zombies of the world).

There's a lot of social bias in the production of games and it can be improved fairly easily if people think about what they're doing. In a similar sort of analogy (though completely unrelated), how many people would never think twice about disabled access to buildings twenty years ago compared to today?
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James Goldie Studying Master of Business (Science & Technology), Monash University7 years ago
@Tom: the problems of the games education sector are the problems of the games industry as a whole. It's fantastic that studios like Dr Wong's are able to attain gender parity in an organic way, but I think it's lazy for a studio facing gender disparity in its applicants to say, "Well, we're just hiring the best people for the job!" Obviously such a disparity is indicative of larger problems, and they need to considered and addressed by all sorts of industry entities. Ditto Brenda's comments re. employee burnout: when a string of exclusively female employees burns out quickly, the correct conclusion isn't that they couldn't cope (to say nothing of deciding not to hire them anymore!), it's that something in the work environment makes life for female employees difficult (and needs to change).
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Not sure if this helps matters, but maybe some indoctrination into games may help, - cue to big bang theory. Penny gets addicted to online gaming.

[link url=

In any regard, this has helped fostered some good discussion, and hopefully encourage more folks into the fold of our industry
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Tom Keresztes Programmer 7 years ago

In theory, theory and pratice are the same. In practice, they are not. When you are about to start a project, and you need to hire people, the studio head will choose the most suitable candidate who could start at the right time, and most likely to stay with the company during the project. The pressure is enormous, and there are huge risks involved - so they would choose the one with proven industry experience.
Though i agree there are problems with education, ignoring the gender issue. The universities are not teaching the necessary skills for the games industry, so the studios traditionally pick those who showed enough interest (hobby projects, etc, etc). I am sure there are better ways, but especially small studios are unable to finance anything else...
I dont think that the industry can do much to change this - apart from changing the public's general perception of the games sector. Sure, it would change the present, but it might keep the right people in the business.
Besises, if the men are expected to change their environment to be more suitable for woman, i believe they have the right to expect the same level of eagerness to fit in as well...
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Justin Jackson7 years ago
I do agree that yes the industryis lacking female talent, influence, and perpective. But to create incentive to attrack more female intrest in the industry should be the focus and not 'inequality'. Because at the end of the day there will always be agruments for this reason and that reason... when we all know that women are just as capable at most tasks as men and VISE VERSA.

Game experience plays an enourmous part and as more games are released where the hero can be either sex (ie. Fable series, Mass Effect an so on) will help start to attract a larger female audience. I recently sevred a 40-50 yr old female customer at work (I work in computer retail part-time while studing) who couldn't stop talking about her WoW account which simply wouldn't have happened 15-20 years ago.

The point I'm trying to make is that if the majority in the multitude of games (and consoles/systems) that are available are NOT gender sensitve, then this problem will ALWAYS exsist. And unfortunatly as popular as Sony's Kevin Butler's E3 appearence was (not that a good boost of testosterone for a mans ego is a bad thing with the amount of died black hair swooshed sidways across the face around) this is not the type of encouragement that is needed at the moment.

Clearly this is reflected buy the amount of students for my University IT degrees where a total of 3, yes 3, females started this year within our class of 40-50 or so and of those none are majoring in Games Development. While our University is quite small (JCU Cairns, Australia) i would not be supprised to find similar occurances around the globe. The Indigenous Australians here are 'encouraged' via particular scholarships and so forth to take part in tertiary study so why not a gender incentive for study in the severly deficient (because lets face it, it is) Games Industry.

However (i imagine) that being a lone female in the class i currently attend, would be most unpleasent. I myself struggle to attend some practorials and tutes, succeeding only by telling myself "i was their age once". Knowing full well how a room of sweaty nerds appeals to my wife (even though she is a gamer herself) i can most certainly sympithyse and would encourage females in an industry that needs their uniqueness more that it realises.

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James Goldie Studying Master of Business (Science & Technology), Monash University7 years ago
@Tom: I can certainly sympathise with an HR manager in that position, but I think that choosing to hire 'safe' male talent over changing workplace culture is myopic and risky for a studio in the long-term. And in any case, I'm not talking about affirmative action (though I think it can be a useful tool in limited circumstances). In the case of burnt-out employees, it's reasonable to assume that something internal to the studio is the root of the problem, but even in cases that appear to be outside a studio's control (eg. where applicants are not at gender parity), studios can still do their part to create change. Even efforts like working and investigating with local educators or educating students directly are useful, and they have the great side-effects of making the studio more visible and attractive to female applicants.
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Alex Holt Artist 7 years ago
Personally I don't think this is so much a problem of the industry but rather the medium as a whole. It's not so much that there is an equal number of applicants but more men are getting employed as much as it's a shortage of female applicants.

My suspician is that really, games are still more likely to be considered by an "average woman" to still be a primarily male thing. Which isn't to say that they won't play a casual game on facebook or play a game put in front of them or whatever. What it does mean is that they are far less likely to keep track of what new games are coming out than an equivical "average man" or purchase games regularly if at all. This is going to then have a knock on effect on the numbers of people who consider the industry a career they'd be interested in at all.

The questions then have to be:

1) Why are games still considered a predominantly "male" medium?
2) What can be done to diversify their appeal?

Ironically, I think you probably need women in prominant positions in the first place to answer those questions and get games that would try and balance it out in production. I also think that there is an element of uphill battle in it for which games aren't responsible: if you look at books and films the variety of things produced leans very heavily towards various branches of romance. This can go to the point where there is arguably an expectation that girls like romance, and then to the expense of dismissing all other genres as "male" or perhaps worse, geeky. Even trying to follow the pattern is unfortunatly difficult - romance is not as suited to games as other mediums because, if nothing else, games are not as "real" as films, books. It also suffers from being the only major genre which is ordinarily achievable in real life - which means a romance game is effectively going to end up competing against real life unless it's much more clever than anything I can think of off the top of my head. Just to clarrify as well, I'm not saying that these do apply to all women by any means, or that women don't like other genres (which they evidently do) but there are certainly a large number of girls who grow up in the assumption that "girls like girl things and boys like boy things" which is a massive problem in itself.

The best I can come up with immediatly is to try and introduce more gender neutral games and try and promote them through channels more likely to be seen by non-gaming women where possible, but I suspect it'll be a long drawn out process...
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Shane Sweeney Academic 7 years ago
How many truly non masculine products exist out there that arent also targetted at children?

Flower? Tell Tale stuff? Sims series?

I guess it's the chicken or the egg. I'm not convinced making more female developers will solve the problem, as you're still just generating more technical people interested in the same general things.

Perhaps if video game design becomes a less technical role I think we will get better a cross polination of creative types that cross not only personal backgrounds but also gender ones much like Television has (less than Cinema has).
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Antony Cain Lecturer in Computer Games Design, Sunderland College7 years ago
6% seems right from my experience. My uni course had 1 girl out of 60 starters. In my current job I've interviewed over 150 people... 10 girls.

It just seems like an interest issue, like the number of men working in make-up. So many people have a weird perception of 'equality'; it shouldn't be about throwing support at a minority simply because it's a minority. If the balance of interest of working in games is 94:6, the workforce should match that... if we had 80% male, 20% female it'd be unfair the other way.

I'd love to have more girls interested in learning to make games, their presence alone makes the class a much more 'normal' environment, instead of a boy's club, but it can't be forced.
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Tom Keresztes Programmer 7 years ago

I believe in equal opportunity and valid reasons - it wont hurt to investigate why are so few women are in games development. But enforcing a ratio is a recipe for a disaster - IMHO.
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