News but not News…

International, widespread news of the growing furore mounting around Activision Blizzard, stemming from allegations reported across the media about a Californian Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) lawsuit, and the subsequent response from the company, shine a harsh spotlight on a culture that Women in Games is actively working to reform

Reputational damage is only one element of this harmful and destructive cycle. The subsequent petition reportedly signed by large numbers of Activision Blizzard’s employees and reproduced across a number of sources including and Kotaku also represents a damning indictment, stating that:

‘Categorizing the claims that have been made as “distorted, and in many cases false” creates a company atmosphere that disbelieves victims. It also casts doubt on our organization’s ability to hold abusers accountable for their actions and foster a safe environment for victims to come forward in the future’. [2]

All of the coverage points to a work culture gone badly wrong – harming women through discrimination and harassment – issues that are horribly familiar. 

Perhaps what is genuinely new, is that the world, connected as it is now by global movements such as MeToo and Black Lives Matter, as well as the continuing global disaster of the COVID – 19 pandemic, is more equipped and ready to vociferously reject such a culture. 

High level efforts mirror this ongoing support for radical change. The United Nations’ (UN) Sustainable Development Goals 2030 provide a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future. At its heart are their 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) amongst which is number 5 – Achieve Gender Equality & Empower all Girls and Women. [3]

Alongside the efforts of the UN are those from the EU parliament, whose 2020 – 25 strategy aligns to the UN goal and commits to weaving gender equality through all of its activities. [4]  

The UK Government’s presidency of G7 2021 will be characterised by gender equality taking centre stage. The Gender Equality Advisory Council members will report to G7 Leaders and engage across all seven G7 ministerial tracks to integrate gender equality in all their actions [5] 

All these examples demonstrate a revived political determination to eliminate the abiding injustice of gender discrimination and inequality. 

Women in Games brings its proactive support to both the popular demand for change and the wider political will that provides a more formal backdrop. As an organisation we are actively engaged in a range of initiatives and activities to counter discrimination, harassment and inequality for women in the workplace and in online spaces. 

The problems that confront women, whether they are players or makers of games are not history, and are not news, and Women in Games is proud to highlight our ongoing initiatives to achieve change: 

Since 2018, Women in Games have worked with Jenny McBean, Director of Research at Market Research Company Bryter, to better understand the severity and persistence of online harassment through their longitudinal survey work now in its fourth year. 

The first study in 2018 was with Female gamers in the UK, in 2019 this included respondents from the US as well as the UK, and in 2020 the gamer’s study included female and male gamers to explore differences in behaviour and experience. 

The most recent 2021 study of females only included the Chinese market: 1,500 gamers were surveyed, revealing some worrying key findings, such as that the proportion of female gamers who have experienced harassment or abuse from male gamers is increasing. 

In answer to the question ‘have you ever experienced abuse from male gamers?’ In 2019 34% said yes, in 2020 this rose to 55% and in 2021 70% agreed. 

Experiences range from regular sexist comments and discrediting game accomplishments, to violent sexual threats and stalking.

Toxicity directed at female gamers is taking on an increasingly sexual nature in 2021 and 1 in 5 say that such toxicity makes them not want to play again. Almost half of gamers in the US & UK feel there is a lack of female representation in streaming, but toxicity discourages them from streaming themselves. A talk on the detailed findings of this research will be presented by Jenny McBean at our forthcoming Women in Games Conference. 

The Conference, which has long been a starting point for effective action, sits at the heart of a larger event this year: For the first time, a Women in Games Festival will be a global online event, and between September 6th – 18th will encompass an ambitious array of events including the Conference, during which women will be able to promote ways to combat inequality, sharing their expertise and practical insights.

The two-day Conference on the 15th and 16th of September will be broadcast and scheduled to suit all major time zones, allowing delegates around the world to tune in to inspirational speakers, interviews, fireside chats, panels, stories on day one. On day two Expo Booths will connect to community groups, studios and businesses with learning labs providing opportunities to take in something new and network with a global community. 

As part of Women in Games’ efforts to support all areas of the industry that are actively working for gender equality, the organisation is currently undertaking research and development work on a new 2nd Edition Women in Games Guide to provide information and practical advice to all stakeholders in the industry. In collaboration with the Interactive Software Federation of Europe (ISFE) this Women in Games publication, for release in early 2022, will address some key challenges and celebrate and share best practice from advocates of gender equality from across the sector.

Women in Games is working in partnership with InGame where The CEO, Marie-Claire Isaaman is an InGame Industry Fellow. The partnership encompasses several research initiatives, including an exciting new project to tackle discrimination and harassment in the workplace and online. InGame is supporting the first ever Festival Survey running across 2 weeks in September, which aims to gather perspectives and data from our delegates across the globe. Our CEO has also been part of a forum and roundtable facilitated by the Unstereotype Alliance for the UN on harmful gender stereotypes: Unstereotype Alliance convenes roundtable to challenge harmful gender stereotypes and harassment in the Nordic online gaming industry

Ongoing efforts to bring equality and fairness to the eSports sector include creating partnerships with grassroots organisations such as the Cat Collective, running esports tournaments during our Festival supporting the development and growth of players in safe environments. We have partnered with Women in Games France Association on their third season of its I-WIG incubator!, created in order to integrate and evolve the esports scene. 

According to one of the France Esports studies, 30% of people who play ranked games are women, and yet among competitive women, only 6% participate in tournaments, demonstrating how low gender diversity is in competitions. Since 2019, the I-WIG incubator has been setting up actions to highlight talented women and help them to enter the esports scene. 

A strong Women in Games network and community along with a highly engaged Ambassador Programme provide a platform for members of our global community of individual, corporate and education ambassadors to speak out and share their experiences and concerns – work that is both long standing and looks to the future. 

Two Discord channels provide active, positive and affirmative spaces, one focused on the esports community and one on the ambassadors and games community.

We are committed to positive activism, which is why for the last decade we have run our Women in Games Awards. This year’s winners will be announced on the 18th September to close our Festival on a high note. Celebrating women who add to a galaxy of female achievements is part of Women in Games’ mission to counter the negativity promoted by discriminatory cultures. 

We listen to our partners, join with advocates of any gender, and act to further the cause of gender equality – looking to a positive, collaborative future.

Join us: Make some New News. 

[1] Bloomberg, 26th July 2021

[2] Kotaku, 26th July 2021


[4] Gender equality strategy | European Commission 

[5] G7 Gender Equality Advisory Council membership announced