HAVE WE REACHED THE FINISH LINE? WHY WOMEN IN GAMES STILL MATTERS

This year we celebrate 20 years of Women in Games – it’s two decades this month since the first Women in Games Conference was held, which ultimately led to this organisation being established.

On the one hand, it’s a milestone – a testament to the ongoing need for change. On the other hand, it begs the question: Shouldn’t we be celebrating a victory lap by now?

Ideally, an organisation like Women in Games wouldn’t be necessary. We’d see a games industry brimming with female talent, from developers to designers to CEOs. We’d see online gaming spaces free from harassment and abuse, welcoming and safe for all genders.

The reality? We’re not quite there. While strides have been made – more women are in the industry, and conversations about diversity are happening – progress is frustratingly slow. The number of women in senior positions remains stubbornly low, and online toxicity persists.

This isn’t to say there aren’t reasons for optimism. Initiatives like the Women in Games Guide: Building a Fair Playing Field offer practical steps for studios and other games organisations to create workplaces that are inclusive and equitable for women (and we have an updated version coming later this year).

Recognition like our wins in the Stevie Awards for Women in Business shows the impact of our work on a global scale.

And we are finally being offered a seat at the table with the ‘establishment’, having recently been invited to join luminaries from worlds of art, film, TV, games and radio at a special Buckingham Palace garden party to celebrate the UK’s creative industries, hosted by King Charles III and Queen Camilla.

But these are building blocks, not a finished edifice. We still need a seismic shift in attitudes and practices. Games companies must go beyond performative diversity efforts and implement tangible policies for recruitment and retention – and we are proud of our Corporate Ambassadors for doing just that. We just need more to engage with us and our community.

At the same time, educational institutions need to encourage girls to consider careers in gaming, dismantling the stereotype of the industry as a ‘boys’ club’. Our Education Ambassador Programme is growing fast as more institutions recognise the benefits of working with Women in Games in a joint effort to achieve these goals – and we, of course, look forward to welcoming more to join us in our collective mission.

The online gaming landscape requires a multi-faceted approach. Developers need robust moderation tools and reporting systems. Gamers themselves need to be vocal bystanders, challenging toxic behaviour and promoting a culture of respect.

Alongside that, more work must be done to improve the representation of women and girls in the games themselves, and we’re delighted to be working with the Geena Davis Institute, alongside Ukie, for the launch of the organisation’s Playbook which will help studios do just that. This is an important resource that will be available freely to all studios, and we applaud the Institute for all the research and work it has undertaken to create this resource.

Meanwhile, we must galvanise more men in the industry to speak up and show support to women who are working in games. We simply can’t do this by ourselves. To that end, we are hosting a roundtable event at this summer’s Develop:Brighton conference, entitled ‘Men As Allies: Open Your Eyes & Become An Agent of Change’. We would love to see as many of you as possible join us. It is free to attend, if you are registered to event’s expo.

Speaking of Develop:Brighton, we will be celebrating our 20th anniversary during our annual Cake & Fizz networking event, kindly supported by Hangar 13 Games and NaturalMotion. We hope to see many of you there to raise a glass with us.

Women in Games may not exist in a perfect world, but until that time arrives, we remain a vital advocate. We are a catalyst for change, a support system for women in the industry, and a relentless voice demanding a more inclusive future.

The race is far from over for women and girls in the industry, and in online gaming spaces, and there are hurdles that we continue to face. But collectively, we can continue to make progress.

Let’s work together to make those small steps increase to longer strides towards the finish line.

Marie-Claire Isaaman, CEO, Women in Games

 

Newsletter main pic: Luwadlin Bosman on Unsplash