What do we think of when we think of gamers, developers and programmers? Teenage boys or young men in front of their consoles or computers. The games industry is heavily weighted towards men, both in terms of attitudes and salaries.
According to research from employment database PayScale Human Capital, around 89 per cent of software developers are male.
All that’s changing now; more and more women are vocal about their love of gaming, are buying more games than ever, and are getting involved in the industry – but ingrained attitudes and the pay gap are issues that need a huge power-up to surmount.
As Christine Clark, co-creator of adventure game The Veil, emphatically puts it: “These problems are systemic, and a conscious effort needs to be made to enable change… This is a massive issue, both in and outside gaming… Sexism is real, and as an industry and a society we can no longer minimise it.”
The 2014 #gamergate harassment scandal – where female industry commentators and developers were abused online – brought home the need for better representation in all levels of gaming and associated industries.
Research by digital interface products Wacom, titled The Women in Game Design Report, showed that advertising was biased towards male heroes – and only 1 in 10 playable characters was female. When more males are targeted, more men join the industry and create the games they want to see. That leaves women, and particularly those from non-white ethnic backgrounds feeling disenfranchised.
Collecting the coins
PayScale’s data suggests that male software developers can earn around £35k – while women earn just over £30k. That was shown to be the general case in the US too, particularly for games technology – women were still making only 86 per cent of their male counterparts’’ salaries.
What’s the cheat code?
While there’s no easy shortcut, education is considered an excellent starting point.
Craig Duncan, studio head of Rare, told BBC Newsbeat that the industry “needs to do a better job at getting a mix of age and gender in our teams… “We know games are played by every gender, age, background and ethnicity and we know games teams don’t have that make up.”
Sony software developer Huda Mahdi underlined this, telling the FT that girls feel inhibited from the start. “No one wants to be ‘the exception’, especially when you are so young. Games and tech are still considered ‘masculine’ areas.”
Siobhan Reddy, studio founder of Sony’s Media Molecule games developer, was recently honoured on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour Power List 2013 of the UK’s 100 most powerful women.
According to Reddy, the future is bright.
She echoes Duncan and Mahdi by saying: “The demographics of games and gamers are changing… the audience is now almost 50:50 male to female… Diversity means more than just hiring more women. We need a spread of people from various backgrounds, culture, sexuality and gender. I love the fact that we can create unique projects from a team of people who bring a different frame of reference. Diversity behind the providers creates the diversity you need in games.”
We’d love to know your thoughts, please send us your feedback and general opinion on recruitment bias within the gaming industry.