Why Aren’t There More Women in the Gaming Industry?

Women reflect about half of video game consumers, and many are extremely passionate about video gaming. With so many women actively engaged as customers, why are so few involved in the gaming industry? Let’s take a examine some possible reasons for the lack of inclusion and retention of women in video gaming.

Lack of Stability and Healthcare Access

Overall, video game companies pay less, offer lower job stability, and provide inadequate health benefits when compared to similar industries in the United States. This is a problem for anyone in the industry, but women have a host of other issues stacked against them in the general workforce and in gaming in particular.

Further Reading: Activision Blizzard Earn Historic $2 Billion, Fire 800 Staff.

Many people in gaming are required to chase jobs all over the country, often moving from coast to coast every few years. The first step to getting more women involved in the gaming industry is making the environment more tolerable for everyone by providing for workers’ basic needs. Most experienced developers don’t want a nap zone or an in-office bar to cope with burnout culture — they want work-life balance.

Lack of Equal Pay in Video Game Development

Most times something becomes adopted by women at large, it usually becomes devalued. Women did the manual calculations allowing NASA into space and received limited recognition. Now, men continue to dominate technical fields, and the skills pay well. You see this pattern in many fields including marketing and publishing.

The same holds true for video games. Women often play and create Facebook and mobile games, and despite the massive success of microtransactions, they still aren’t seen as “real games” — and a “gamer” or “game designer” isn’t someone who plays or designs those types of experiences, respectively. The pay gap exists in general, but it hits even harder for women who look around the office and see they are the only woman there.

The GamerGate Controversy Targets Women

In 2014, Gamergate began targeting women in video game design, feminist video gamers, and even women posting innocuous reviews of video games. This rampant misogyny meant that taking a stand against harassment in gaming could land you on a list resulting in doxxing, rape threats, and hacking attempts.

As video gaming is already competitive (for designers, artists, voice actors, eSports players, and more) and not always the highest paying, Gamergate reduces the incentive for women to become involved in any aspect of video gaming.

Further Reading: GamerGate: The Ugly Side of an Industry Built on Fun.

This is also an opportunity for video game companies to stand up against harassment: After all, it affects half their players. Women in video gaming are very aware of GamerGate and how the GamerGaters attempted to legitimize hatred and harassment of women in gaming.

Riot Games: An Example of How Game Companies Fail Women

Riot Games, the company behind League of Legends, is notorious for pushing crunch culture in the gaming world. In crunch culture, game developers (who are often overworked and underpaid) are expected to work at maximum levels to meet release dates for new games and patches.

Rolling contracts supplement crunch culture, providing a lack of stability and protection of all workers. This affects women in video games disproportionately as they are already compensated less than men and are expected to perform more emotional labor both in and out of the workplace.

In addition to this, Riot Games failed the women it employs. The women of Riot Games filed a class-action lawsuit against the company, citing a “men-first” environment. Any woman who has worked in video games (or even played League of Legends) knows exactly what this implies: being treated as less, being harassed, and not being compensated enough.

Why Gaming Companies Should Invest in Women

By the time 2040 rolls around, nearly a third of all CEOs will be women. Presently, women only make up 22% of the video game industry — lessening their odds at advancing into leadership roles. Hopefully in the future, we’ll see more women in leadership roles just as we’re seeing more women characters in video games.

Since gaming companies are often married to short-term goals and production schedules, it’s not always feasible for them to make long-term investments. However, women in gaming positively impact a company’s bottom line:

  • Women make games that women want to play: Want to get more women playing your game? The easiest way to make a woman-friendly game is to hire women to create it and provide feedback on it.
  • Women-led tech companies outperform men-led tech companies on efficiency and productivity, with 35% higher return on investment.
  • Women in leadership roles can contribute to the diversity of a workforce.

How Gaming Companies Can Succeed When Recruiting Women

If gaming companies want to recruit and retain women, they should be upfront in their recruitment process. A statement on inclusion is a start, but video game companies can go a step further by inviting women to apply, describing some of the benefits offered. They should promise to provide and implement:

  • An inclusive work environment
  • Equal pay
  • A culture mindful of outside obligations
  • A real contract, benefits, and a specific human resources contact
  • An anti-harassment policy and an expectation for all employees to sign it

Additionally, the culture surrounding any video game is also an important consideration in recruitment. If a video game company is known for hosting forums with harassment problems or voice chats without moderation, it’s less likely that women will want to apply to the gaming company.

Video game companies hoping to recruit women also need to recognize that there is a problem and outline their policies or steps to address these issues. Another easy win involves recruiting women from other industries into roles that suit their skill set.

Women in Gaming - HeadStuff.org
Zoe Quinn a game developer harassed during GamerGate. Source.

Many video game communities may require community managers, customer service representatives, and administrative professionals. Video game companies can invest in educating employees in support roles in technical or other industry knowledge.

Other industries have shown marked improvement in the number of women in leadership roles, and there are already some notable women in video games. If video game studios can commit to an investment, the return is obvious: a healthier work culture for everyone and games that are easier to market to wider audiences.


Featured Image Credit.

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