WE STAND IN SOLIDARITY… ALTHOUGH WE SHOULDN’T NEED TO…

In the UK this week, the Women and Equalities Committee issued a report to the House of Commons, highlighting the limitations in opportunity, a lack of support, gender discrimination and sexual harassment and assault, as well as the persistent issue of unequal pay in a sector dominated by self-employment and gendered power imbalances in the industry.

Here are some highlights of the report:

Women are underrepresented in key roles in the… industry. Positions of authority… have historically been more likely to be occupied by men.

In many levels of the industry female representation is improving… but in certain areas progress is slow and shackled by discrimination, misogyny and sexual abuse in an industry that is still routinely described as a “boys’ club”.

Abuse and discrimination are not unique to the industry but they are amplified… by the high number of freelance workers in the sector—which gives rise to significant power imbalances in working relationships and precarious employment practices—and the informal nature of many workplaces which, together with late-night working, often in places where alcohol and drugs are available, can result in women working in environments that are unsafe.

Women have to work harder than their male peers for recognition.

There is evident frustration at the continuing effect of the historic domination of key roles by white men. The lack of women in positions of authority sets the culture and influences decisions for the rest of the profession and can have a direct impact on women’s career opportunities and progression.

In case you weren’t aware, this was a report into the music industry, and what are described as the “endemic” issues around discrimination, unfair pay, sexual harassment and abuse, and more.

We are utterly saddened to read this report, and stand in solidarity and in sympathy with our sisters in the music industry. Because, of course, anyone in games reading this will recognise the similarities with our sector. Just change the name of the industry from ‘music’ to ‘games’.

We are there too.

Just ahead of this report, we were brought the latest industry data from GDC. In a survey of over 3,000 games development professionals, it was revealed that just 23% are women, and in more experienced, ‘decision-maker’ roles, white women make up just 5%, with Asian women on the same percentage.

The dial is just not moving forward.

With a backdrop showing continuing reports of inequality, harassment, abuse, lack of opportunity and more, our industry – just like the music industry – is simply not an attractive place for women to work, and for young women and girls to consider forging a career within.

I have the honour of speaking at the Westminster Media Forum later this month, discussing skills, talent recruitment, retention and promoting diversity and inclusion in the industry. I’ll be expected to offer my thoughts on how to attract more girls into games education, and then subsequently into an industry that – in many areas – has huge skills gaps. An industry which says wants better gender representation at all levels…

Currently, I’m not sure what to say. Because, frankly, until we see our own ‘endemic’ issues being tackled at the very highest level, the games industry is going to struggle to show women and girls that it is a safe and welcoming place for them.

Back to the music industry report, the following quote in the Summary particularly jumped out at me:

Too often, problems of discrimination, harassment and misogyny are seen as women’s issues—that it is their role to experience, avoid, overcome, withstand, analyse, discuss and understand misogyny so men don’t have to. While necessary, preventative measures risk normalising behaviours and place the responsibility on women as potential victims rather than men as potential perpetrators.

We 100% agree. But at Women in Games, we also recognise that we have many great allies within our community, as well as in the wider industry. We want to bring them together, to encourage them to work more closely with our organisation, to highlight to other men throughout the sector that we want – expect – them to stand alongside us, call out unacceptable behaviour, and support women and girls in games.

We have plans for an event and initiative to do just that – we’ll be revealing all very shortly, so watch this space.