What’s hindering the progression of women in the games industry?

The games industry has seen numerous headlines regarding the harassment and discrimination of women.

This article is not about the awful and overt actions that women have endured while employed in this industry but about the subtle ways women are hindered in their progression within the games industry. 

It is death by a thousand cuts, a slow progression of actions and attitudes that are not egregious on their own but result in women not moving up in studios, not feeling heard or included, and some leaving the industry altogether. 

Let’s start at the beginning. 

Most studios are not founded by women, so they are not created with the female employee in mind; behaviors, spaces, and branding are all from a male perspective. Women can join these studios, but the expectation is that they slot into the already established culture. Women end up masking or augmenting their behavior by lowering their voice to seem more authoritative, dressing less feminine, not sharing opinions that may be perceived as “difficult,” not decorating their desks how they would like, etcetera. 

Here’s how the change starts:

Representation

Women and other minorities in games want a workplace that represents them, i.e., women want to work alongside other women and be led by other women. Representation at all levels matters. Entering a male-dominated industry can be unwelcoming and having others that look like you as an example of success is important. It shows other women that they can be taken seriously and be successful at that studio as well. 

Hiring for Diversity

If you want diversity, you need to be ready and accepting of change. Many studios tout being diverse, striving for diversity, and wanting more women to join their studios. Ok, great! But what happens once they join? When companies want more women, they need to be ready for change. Bringing in more women shouldn’t be about meeting a quota or PR agenda. 

The perspective that women bring is not going to be the same as the men in the studio and this means that a new perspective will need to be listened to and included. The status quo can no longer apply, and studios need to be open to change based on the female perspective. 

Informal Interactions 

Who are you going for lunch or coffee with? I bet you’re discussing work while you’re doing this. If everyone at your table looks the same, in meetings or while you’re out for lunch, you are limiting your perspective. Let’s get real here. The lunches you have with your coworkers are also where ideas hatch and decisions are made. If you’re only going out for lunch with male coworkers, you’re excluding the perspective of your female coworkers. 

Representation at Industry Events

If you’re sending folks to events such as GDC, E3, or Gamescom, make sure that you’re giving the same opportunities to the women at your studio. 

These are just some of the many examples of why women are hindered in their progression within the games industry.

Carolina Ellis is a game design instructor at Vancouver Film School and co-founder of Gasket Games.

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