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Women in Games Extraordinary Board Meeting October 2018.

Our mission at Women in Games is to achieve full equality of opportunity and treatment for all women working, or wanting to work, in the games and esports industries. And we’ve been striving towards this goal for 9 years – raising awareness and implementing initiatives that seek to change attitudes, deliver impact and create the conditions for women in our sector to achieve their full potential.

Women in Games has been a grassroots organization relying on goodwill, ad hoc sponsorship donations and the tireless efforts of volunteers who believe in our cause and want to help. I personally want to thank everyone who has supported us and contributed so much over the years. But you can only get so far on goodwill alone. So 18 months ago, in my first presentation to our board as CEO, I outlined a strategy to grow and professionalise Women in Games. I understood that if we were really serious about achieving our goals, we needed to build an organization capable of delivering deeds as well as words.

But growing an organization to do good deeds and bring lasting change requires time and money. Although my strategy was warmly received by the board, it quickly proved challenging to deliver due to the lack of organizational bandwidth, particularly in terms of the human and economic capital available. So we decided to focus on developing more sustainable sponsorship and fundraising models that would enable us to grow. As a result, we’ve forged new relationships with sponsors – such as 2K/Hangar 13, Facebook, Dovetail Games, King, AIM Awards, Ukie, Improbable, Jagex, Epic Games, Big Pixel, The Trailer Farm, Nerial, Norwich University of the Arts and more – and recently launched a Patreon campaign. And it was the amazing generosity of both our sponsors and patrons that empowered us to deliver what was generally agreed to have been the best ever European Women in Games Conference in London last month.

Women in Games received some negative press and online comments regarding an award being given to a man, James Banks, to recognise his promotion of women in esports. Experience has taught us that to effect meaningful and lasting change, women need good allies in positions of influence. And due to historic inequality in our sector, this means men who see the real cultural, creative, organizational, societal and economic benefits of an equal, diverse and inclusive workforce. That’s why Women in Games celebrates men who work to improve equality, diversity and inclusion in our industry. That’s why our advocacy awards also recognised Steven Taarland for his amazing Rainbow Game Jam. And that’s why Kish Hirani and Adam Campbell were recognised for their essential work with BAME in Games.

As CEO, I take any criticism of Women in Games extremely seriously. Particularly when an element of that criticism comes from an anonymous board member. I believe we only get better by listening to our critics and their concerns, learning from them, then responding proactively and positively. So earlier this month, I called an Extraordinary Board Meeting to review the recent events. This was part of a process that was necessary to openly discuss and agree actions resulting from these events. It ensured all board members were given the opportunity to communicate their perspectives and contribute fully to the future direction of Women in Games.

The outcome of the Extraordinary Board Meeting was broad agreement that Women in Games must now prioritise professionalising and scaling as an organization. And that we should aim to set the standard for good governance, democratic process and transparency within the sector as we do so. We agreed the recent criticism had emerged from – and helped illuminate – the ‘growing pains’ that so often occur when a very small organization with a legacy grassroots structure attempts to deliver large scale, labour intensive and professional outputs. And we all agreed this was both an opportunity and catalyst for change. Failure occurs only when we don’t learn.

Consequently, I will be working with the board to revisit and update our organizational strategy, overhaul our organizational governance and structure, ensure better communication of our aims and activities, continue to forge new relationships and partnerships at home and abroad, plus clarify and standardise our awards process for 2019. This work has already started. And although all these changes cannot happen overnight, I believe it is now essential to start evolving Women in Games from its grassroots origins into an effective, resilient and sustainable organization. Only then can we become fully capable of achieving our stated mission: to ensure lasting equality and freedom from discrimination for all women working in our industry.

Marie-Claire Isaaman
CEO, Women in Games

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