It is important for our Corporate Ambassadors to be committed to making positive changes within their workplaces, particularly when it comes to supporting and nurturing women within their teams.

So, we’re very happy to see that one of our newest Corporate Ambassadors, Product Madness, is taking steps to create an inclusive and safe working environment for its teams – and that the company is sharing its tips with our community.

Antonina Iermeichuk, Technical Product Manager at Women in Games Corporate Ambassador Product Madness, highlights her learnings here…

As our latest team meeting wrapped up, I found myself reflecting on the importance of meaningful connections among colleagues and their impact on creating a positive work environment, especially for women.

In the gaming industry, with our fast-paced professional lives, it is all too easy to underestimate the power of team spirit and support among coworkers, even though these connections can influence our careers a lot. In this article, I will explore the importance of friendship at work and share insights on promoting a supportive and empowering atmosphere for women, helping them thrive and succeed in their professional journeys.

I have been working in the gaming industry for over 12 years, but working in Product Madness is different; it is the first time in my career that I am leading a team of Technical Product Owners where half of the team members are women. My team consists of 14 people – seven women and seven men – coming from 11 different countries. Despite having such diversity, we do not have issues within the team, and everyone gets along very well. However, I am aware that this is not always the case for many other teams in the gaming industry.

Women still face challenges at work, such as being treated differently due to stereotypes about unhealthy work environments, not earning as much as their male colleagues, and not having enough representation in leadership roles. I will not be able to answer how to resolve all the issues women in games currently face, but I will focus on what small changes we can implement to improve team spirit and make everyone feel welcome, valued, heard, and supported.

I would like to share my Seven Steps on how to build a supportive, diverse and healthy team, especially for women.

Step 1: Discover the awesomeness of your team
First, you should make an effort to understand each team member on a personal level. Recognise their unique qualities and connect with them by learning about their hobbies and interests. Building these connections will strengthen relationships and improve team bonding.

In our team, we hold weekly meetings, where we discuss anything but work. During these meetings, we have learned so much about each other so far: Suna loves experimenting with advanced cooking recipes, while Bertha volunteers at animal shelters and has a passion for magic. Ivanka sings in a rock band, Beata loves her dance classes, Julliefer is a big fan of book-to-film adaptations, such as The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, Yanina likes to solve challenging puzzles, and Polina has her own interests. As for me, I love to travel. We are all different, but these differences bring us closer, promoting understanding, respect and unity within our team.

Step 2: Be mindful and let people be themselves
The second step is to encourage an open and accepting environment where team members can express themselves without fear of judgement. Try to build a team where people value each person’s unique qualities and cultivate a culture of inclusivity and understanding.

Aside from discovering each other’s hobbies, we also share our life stories, as much as each person is comfortable with. Knowing these stories helps my team and me better understand the reasons behind each person’s distinct characteristics. For instance, I grew up in a rural village in Western Ukraine, and my childhood dream was to experience big city life and have a friend in every country and I had to work hard to get that. So now my team knows that I am passionate about bringing people together and learning about different cultures, but I have my own flaws, and they accept and appreciate me for who I am.

Step 3: Support creativity and encourage ideas
The next step is to foster a collaborative atmosphere where team members feel at ease sharing their ideas and opinions. Try to recognise and appreciate innovative thinking, and encourage everyone to contribute their unique perspectives. Celebrate every small win, as this helps create an engaged and supportive environment for all team members, both women and men.

In our team, we love organising workshops. It all started over a year ago when my colleague Val jokingly suggested we needed a talent show. While no one wanted to see us sing, colleagues from other departments and our team were very interested in what other TPOs had to share with the world. After many tries and learnings, now we organise solutions workshops every two weeks and large summits every few months. At our last summit in December, I was really impressed by the creativity and talent displayed by my team members. In our team, we not only focus on work all the time, but we also try to have fun while working as shown in the picture below.

Step 4: Hire only the right-fit people
The fourth step is to be thoughtful when hiring new team members. Please ensure that potential hires are aligned with your team’s values and culture. A good cultural fit is crucial for maintaining a supportive and diverse team.

As my team continues to grow, we sometimes face challenges finding individuals with the right skill set. However, it is essential that we do not compromise on hiring people who do not share our company or team values. When selecting new members, we pay close attention not only to candidates’ technical expertise but also to their attitudes, communication styles, and willingness to collaborate. We place a great emphasis on thoroughly assessing potential candidates to make sure they will contribute positively to our existing solutions team culture.

Step 5: Organise team-building events
The most fun step is to plan regular team-building activities to strengthen relationships and promote cooperation within your team. These events can range from informal lunches and structured workshops to travelling together. Choose activities that resonate with your team and help them bond while having a great time.

My team has done an outstanding job with team-building activities. In the past year alone, we organised three BBQ parties at colleagues’ homes, attended a few concerts, visited several museums, and enjoyed a go-karting evening together. Our team’s greatest team-building event so far was a girls-only trip to Rome, and another girls-only trip to Sicily is scheduled in a few weeks. Turning your colleagues into friends is amazing, and it is really advantageous, as it creates a supportive and enjoyable work environment for everyone.

Step 6: Address problems when they are small
No problem is too small. Try to deal with issues and conflicts as soon as they arise, rather than allowing them to grow into larger problems. Open communication and timely resolution of issues are essential to maintaining a healthy work environment.

While I might be portraying my team and myself as flawless here, of course, there have been some challenging situations. I recall an example when I made a comment that was not received as I intended by one of my team members, even though I did not mean any harm. Fortunately, that person addressed the issue very quickly allowing me to apologise and resolve the situation. Fixing such situations requires effort from both parties, and I strongly encourage addressing them head-on. A toxic work environment is not something anyone should have to tolerate.

Step 7: Enjoy your new positive work environment
Finally, after implementing these steps, take a moment to appreciate the improvements in your team’s dynamics. Embrace the positive atmosphere and continue to promote a supportive, diverse, and healthy work environment that enables everyone to thrive and succeed in their professional journey.

Celebrate the milestones and achievements together, recognising the collective effort put in by the entire team. This will further strengthen team bonding and motivate everyone to contribute their best. Remember that maintaining a positive work environment is an ongoing process, so stay attentive and proactive in ensuring that your team remains engaged, supportive, and satisfied.

In conclusion, building a positive work environment is crucial for employee satisfaction, team productivity, and overall success. The power of friendship in the workplace should not be underestimated, especially for women who often face unique challenges. Implementing the seven steps I outlined in this article can help foster a supportive, diverse, and healthy team atmosphere. From discovering the awesomeness of your team to addressing problems when they arise, these steps can promote open communication, creativity, inclusivity, and a culture of support.

By celebrating achievements and maintaining a positive work environment, teams can thrive and succeed together, building meaningful connections that last beyond the workplace.

The Women in Games Guide: Building A Fair Playing Field has more valuable advice and guidance on Creating A Fair Working Culture – and much more. If you’ve not done so already, you can download The Guide for free here.