Skip to main content

"There's no excuse for unequal pay"

Leading UK games organisations discuss the importance of ensuring employees of any gender are paid fairly as claims against major non-games firms rise

In 2010, the UK government's Equality Act became law, stipulating (among other things) that men and women are entitled to the same pay if doing the same job.

And yet in 2018, we've seen equal pay issues emerging at British giants such as Tesco and the BBC. While no such complaints have been reported within games companies so far, it's important that publishers, developers and anyone working in this industry ensure they have addressed any potential issues as awareness of the pay gap spreads.

Given the recent high-profile examples in other industries, it might be advisable to take a hard look inwards and ensure your employees are being treated fairly.

Marie-Claire Isaaman, Women In Games

"I can't understand why anyone would think it acceptable to remunerate someone of equal experience, ability and value with lower pay or worse benefits for equal work, simply because that person is female," Marie-Claire Isaaman, CEO of Women in Games, tells us.

"I'm sure we all agree it would be absolutely wrong to practice that kind of discrimination based upon differences of ethnicity, sexuality, disability, socio-economic background or other factors, so why is gender any different?"

UKIE CEO Dr Jo Twist adds: "All employees, no matter who you are or what gender you identify as, have the right to equal pay for equal work - the Equality Act 2010 is clear on this. Employers should always follow best practice as well as the law when recruiting employees and regular benchmarking and reviews of salary scales is key. Employees should know their rights too and if they have concerns, they should be comfortable raising them with their managers or with HR departments, if they have one."

Dr Richard Wilson, CEO of TIGA, adds that equal pay isn't just a legal obligation but also a principle of fairness: "If individuals perform the same roles and carry out the same or similar work, then they should be paid the same. Managers can assure their staff that they are being paid fairly by having an official company policy that commits the organization to paying their staff fairly."

"It can be done - both the British Museum and the UK Armed Forces have achieved a 0% gender pay gap."

Marie-Claire Isaaman, Women In Games

Sadly, as obvious as all this might sound, there is a possibility that some companies out there are guilty of allowing a disparity between pay for men and women. In the first annual Careers Survey last year, we found that female respondents were earning £7,000 less on average than their male counterparts.

It's important to note this is not necessarily a sign of unequal pay across the same positions. It's likely these results are skewed by the number of men in senior positions with higher salaries, which is an issue of its own. Despite the industry's ongoing calls for diversity, the senior management teams at most of the biggest companies are still dominated by men.

"We need to be careful not to conflate gender pay gaps with equal pay," warns Isaaman. "The gender pay gap is about disparity in pay across an organisation. It's structural and indicates that men usually hold the senior positions and therefore earn more money. In the game industries the reasons for this are complex, mostly to do with historical legacy, cultural complacency, leaking talent pipelines and, of course, wider societal issues.These all affect the roles women play in the sector."

She continues: "If you have a high gender pay gap in your organisation... you need to develop a long term vision and strategy to change this within a clearly defined time frame. You can't just fire the men and replace them with women; that's simplistic, unethical and a recipe for organisational instability.

"But you can set realistic goals and milestones for closing your gender pay gap and prioritise achieving these. The BBC is a good example - it has pledged to close its gender pay gap by 2020 and become 'an exemplar for fairness' in gender and pay.

"Gender pay gaps are one thing. If you find instances of unequal pay - unequal remuneration for equal work based on gender (or anything else) - these should be corrected immediately. There's really no excuse for that."

Jo Twist, UKIE

Isaaman urges larger games companies to be as transparent as possible about both the gender pay gap and individual cases of unequal pay - if only because this will make any potential issues easier to identify. If employers don't wish to reveal the salary and benfits of their staff, internal processes must be put in place to ensure fairness.

"I'm less interested in how they do it, more that it gets done," says Isaaman. "And it can be done - both the British Museum and the UK Armed Forces have achieved a 0% gender pay gap."

Three years ago, Isaaman hereself conducted research for the NextGen Skills Academy report and discovered that, while there were a significant amount of women working in the games industry, many of them were neither in senior positions, nor were they involved in games development.

"These are some of the structural reasons that must be addressed to close the gender pay gap but we need more research to gain a better understanding," Isaaman adds.

In fact, the Women In Games CEO is currently working on new research with trade body UKIE to investigate this further. This will not only look into any discrimination against women, but also on the grounds of disability, sexuality, ethnicity, beliefs or socio-economic background. The hope is that by identifying the barriers to women, we can better ensure equal pay and improve the diversity of the industry's workforce.

"Ultimately, we need to attract more talented women to the industry to fix gender inequality," Isaaman says. "In fact, I'd hope the gender pay gap will energise talented women not only to join but to change and lead the game industries of the future. The only way to effectively change things is to do something real."

Twist agrees, adding: "For the UK games sector to remain world class we need to attract a diverse range of people from all walks of life and have a workforce that is truly representative of society and our consumers. With fierce competition for talent across all parts of the economy we should be leading the way and making ourselves the most attractive and inclusive sector to work in."

Richard Wilson, TIGA

Wilson warns that unequal pay, and even the wider gender pay gap, can suggest that women are not treated fairly in this industry, thus deterring others from seeking a career in games.

"At present, approximately 14 per cent of our workforce are women," he says. "We need to give more women the opportunity to work in our industry. Employers in our sector must obey the law and should ensure that male and female employees are paid equally. Our industry should treat people fairly as a matter of principle; and if women know that they will be treated fairly then they will be more inclined to work in our sector."

The TIGA CEO goes on to offer advice to anyone in the industry that believes they are being paid less than a colleague of the opposite sex despite doing the same role.

"Talk or write to your employer to try address the issue informally," he urges. "If this is unsuccessful then the individual in question could consider a more formal, legal approach."

Isaaman concludes: "This can be a difficult situation to negotiate, as many don't know the law and don't want to be seen as 'troublemakers' or 'whistleblowers', fearing that may destabilize their positions.

"For a women to ensure she is receiving equal pay, she has to identify and name 'comparators' to compare her contract and remuneration package to. If her equal pay claim is successful, the claimant will have her package adjusted upwards and may receive up to six years back pay as compensation.

"I would always recommend that before making an equal pay claim, women get the best advice possible. The Equality and Human Rights Commision and ACAS both have good information and guidance available and, of course, organizations like Women in Games can provide support specifically to women in the game industries and put them in touch with experts who can help."

Read this next

James Batchelor avatar
James Batchelor: James is Editor-in-Chief at, and has been a B2B journalist since 2006. He is author of The Best Non-Violent Video Games
Related topics