Attention! Ambassadors in Action…

Gemma Johnson-Brown in conversation with Sharon Tolaini-Sage.

This year has seen a great many innovations for Women in Games, including the first ever Global Careers & Networking Event in March, attended by over seven hundred guests, and the launch of the new website.

 On May 28th 2021, Women in Games will enlarge its portfolio of activities even further by hosting the first ever exclusive Ambassadors Only Event. The event will be free to attend for ambassadors of Women in Games, and will focus on networking and providing a forum for ambassadors to engage with each other in panel discussions, learning labs and idea generation sessions.

Women in Games is an organisation for activists, whose community is made up of everyone with a common purpose – to bring about real change in the games industries and Esports sectors and make it an equitable and fair working environment.

This interview with Gemma Johnson-Brown, COO of Dovetail Games, and Ambassador Programme Director of Women in Games, gives context to the new event, and confirms how important community is to the organisation:

 

STS: Gemma, you have been directing the Ambassador Programme at Women in Games since its early beginnings, what is the thinking behind the programme? 

G J-B: There were around 60 ambassadors when I began. In the early days it was part of the Google Women Techmakers Fund, and the premise was that ambassadors could apply for funds to support clusters of small events.

Those were the foundations, and it has grown from there, so that now we have three distinct pillars of our ambassador system: Individual Ambassadors, Corporate Ambassadors and the latest arm is our Educational Ambassadors. They form an eco-system, and the long-term vision is for individual ambassadors to be able to make use of the different arms of the organisation, so that they can access representatives from industry and education. 

The idea is to put on events and speak about their aspirations for the games industry in a very strong, mutually supportive environment. 

The individual ambassador community has grown vastly – having paused it at the end of last year to take stock, we asked our ambassadors to re sign up for the programme, and the results really outdid my expectations. 

Over 300 ambassadors re-signed, and in response to an additional soft launch we have had another 40 join us. It’s growing, and when you see the community and support and networking in action, it’s amazing. 

 

STS: What do individual ambassadors gain from their involvement, and how have they been active in their different professional settings?

G J-B: Ambassadors discuss anything from issues that they’re facing at work, to  wanting to progress in their careers, or get started, or change discipline – the ambassador network provides a vast breadth of knowledge, skills, experience and opinion, and it’s incredibly supportive. 

Everyone I’ve met in the industry has been nothing but supportive, but what’s so valuable here is the level of openness and mutual support of this community, which is just fantastic. 

What people gain and contribute can be anything – from visibility on social media, which gives opportunities for people who might not be fully confident yet about being in the limelight or public speaking – to putting on an event. 

We adapted from the physical to the digital very quickly at the start of the pandemic, and we’ve had virtual ‘coffee breaks’ every two weeks for the last 7 months. All ambassadors have the opportunity to host an event on any subject they wish, and we’ve had everything from progressing in your career to talking about Pokemon! Recently we had an ambassador talk to parents and carers about careers in the industry, others have reviewed CVs and portfolios, giving tips and advice. So ambassadors are not only part of the whole network, with access to the opportunities that gives, but there is a huge amount of freedom available to really take this as far as they’d like. 

 

STS: I thought I’d throw you an impossible question! How can individual ambassadors make a difference to such a systemic problem as widespread gender inequality?

G J-B: That is a big question! But it’s a good idea to just have an honest discussion about it. I think it’s about being involved, and making a stand. 

A systemic problem is a problem that everyone is implicated in, not just women. It’s a problem for every gender, every system, and every organisation.

Being an ambassador is making a change in itself – you’re visible, you’re present, and there will be someone somewhere out there that you’ve inspired. You might not even know the impact you’ve had, but you’ll leave positive impressions on people – I know for sure that this is happening. I get messages all the time from people who have attended events, or someone has said something that has had a lasting impact. On our Discord channels, there might be a handful of people actively engaging, but there may be hundreds watching. I’ve watched the channels myself and come away thinking – ‘yes, I can really use that’. 

 

STS: How do you see the programme evolving, and what involvement might there be for Women in Games’ individual ambassadors in future?

G J-B: As our next step, we’re aiming to set up an Ambassador’s Board, representing the regions, because we’re acutely aware that different regions have different cultural wants, needs and issues. 

The biggest thing we need to help springboard the next stages of development is resources – we are currently looking for a partner to take us to the next level. 

This is very important for us, because the Ambassador Programme has so much potential that we can see and feel, but as a not for profit we have to be very careful about where our resources go. 

I want to put more behind the Ambassadors Programme, which is growing organically, and it can be so much more. As we look forward to our Autumn Festival this year, there are some really exciting opportunities for ambassadors to get involved in, as well as our Careers and Ambassador Only events. 

I see more and more of these opportunities developing in the future, but developing it all will take resources – participation is key, enabling ambassadors to be actively involved at all levels. Organising events is a team effort, and for it to happen you need to enable team members to bring their diverse voices and skills.’ 


 

The Ambassador’s Only Event is on May 28th, and will bring the Women in Games community of activists together – effective change-makers in the ongoing effort to create an equal working environment for women in games.