Women in Games talks to Athena Enderstein, Group Head of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging at Keywords Studios…

You joined Keywords from outside of the games industry just a year ago. What were your initial thoughts on the state of the industry when it comes to EDI?
I did! It’s been an incredible transition, the games industry is full of passionate people making experiences for others to enjoy. I was struck by how the industry is diverse in certain ways, but significantly unbalanced in others. For example, in the UK only 30% of the games workforce are women, 18% below the overall workforce, and ethnic diversity is considerably lower as well. However, the proportion of people who report their sexuality as something other than heterosexual is 17.7% higher than for the general population.

There is a long way to go in terms of representation and participation, and in terms of decision making power and distribution across role types within the industry.

There are local and global initiatives working to change this. Organisations like Women in Games itself, communities like Melanin Gamers, media like Gayming magazine; pledge programs like #RaiseTheGame; development opportunities like IGDA Global Mentorship Program; and many more across the world. These initiatives are accelerating change, we know this is incremental and can take time, so it is essential that individual studios internally prioritise EDI work to collectively progress the industry.

Coming from outside of games, what unique perspective do you think this gives you?
Having worked in different countries and sectors gives me an understanding of mechanisms of change and processes of building equity that I can apply in the games context. This perspective is helping me to see unique features in games that we can leverage to facilitate diversity and inclusion – things like the wide range of roles and expertise, existence of global networks and communities, the hybrid of technology and creative industries; and expanding gamer demographics.

Why is it important to Keywords that it supports Women in Games and, in particular, our Ambassador Programme?
At the heart of our Keywords Studios and Women in Games (WIG) partnership is the shared aim of shaping the games industry – tackling gender inequality, underrepresentation, and wider intersectional issues of inclusivity and diversity. At Keywords we recognise the underrepresentation of women in our own company and in the industry, as well as in senior roles (e.g. Leads/Directors/Studio Heads/CEOs), and the strong need for building inclusivity. We also recognise that these issues must be tackled collaboratively and globally. This is why directly supporting the Ambassador Programme – a powerful and diverse community of action – is important to Keywords.

What does Keywords do to promote EDI within its business?
We have initiated a purposeful diversity, equity, and inclusion journey at Keywords – we want to embed principles and practices throughout the organisation. Currently we are in a phase of learning and building, setting up our DEIB infrastructure – growing knowledge and skills through training at all levels; setting up DEIB data baselines and analytics; and developing our Keywords DEIB strategy. We are lucky to have passionate Keywordians who are taking this work forward in their departments and studios, and we are strengthening our global networks. Because we know that internal progress is indispensable, but alone insufficient, to change the industry, we are investing in partnerships such as our collaboration with Women in Games.

What are the three things that studios can do immediately to help gender EDI within their companies and beyond?
There are many impactful actions that individuals and companies can put in place, but I think the following three are invaluable for immediately addressing gender equity.

  • Identify diversity, equity, and inclusion champions and sponsors
  • Collect good data and use it to design studio-specific activities
  • Implement policy changes

…and use the WiG Building a Fair Playing Field guide!