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It’s no secret that women have been historically underrepresented in most industries. The gaming industry is no exception, with a glass ceiling that is perhaps even harder to shatter than in most other fields. Gaming is seen as a field dominated by men, often from a background of privilege. These statistics are echoed in most corporations of today as well.
As stated in an article by Ohio University, “Roughly 85 percent of corporate executives and board members are white men, a metric that creates a very real and very imposing glass ceiling.” The article recommends a number of ways to smash this ceiling. One of these is for corporations to show that they value diversity. Corporations need to actively work with individuals from different racial, economic, and cultural backgrounds. They should promote balance through their behaviors and hiring processes.
The glass ceiling is especially evident for women in gaming, as this group has a clear history of under-representation. In fact, an article on Polygon that reviews the 2016 book Women in Game Development outlines many stories of the gaming industry’s inherent bias towards males, including entry barriers, hostility towards women, and even major harassment. Author Jennifer Hepler writes that “there is no single narrative of being a ‘woman in games.” She states that characters may change, but “the setting is the same, and the hostility and ignorance we have all faced continue to be a defining part of many women’s experience of games.”
Turning the Tables
Thankfully, the tide seems to be turning, especially in recent years. More and more women are infiltrating the tech industry in various specializations. For instance, consider individuals like Essye B. Miller, the U.S. Department of Defense’s deputy chief information officer for cyber security, or Angela McKay, Microsoft’s senior director of cyber security and strategy. These women have broken the glass ceiling and made a name for themselves in cyber security, despite the odds.
Similarly, Cher Wang, co-founder of smartphone development and vending company HTC Corporation started out as a female entrepreneur and is now one of the most influential people in consumer technology today.
Much like cyber security, the gaming industry has also seen a rise of female entrepreneurs. While Entertainment Software Association’s 2018 Sales, Demographic, and Usage Data report claims that 45% of gamers in the U.S. are women, it must be noted that an increasing number of women are creating games too. After the Gamergate scandal of 2015, more gaming conferences are putting a spotlight on the work of women developers in gaming.
As more women enter gaming, here are some of the entrepreneurs who go above and beyond to turn the tables on the industry as a whole:
A champion of both indie gaming and women in gaming, we’ve mentioned Robin Hunicke in a previous article about inspiring examples of women in gaming. Hunicke has won numerous awards, including a Gaming BAFTA. She started her career in EA and left in 2012 to produce Journey. Eventually, she set up her own independent game development studio called Funomena. Currently, she teaches game design at UC Santa Cruz alongside running her studio.
Good describes Colleen Macklin as “one of the game’s industry most vocal advocates for women and gay rights.” Macklin is an associate professor in design and technology at Parsons The New School. Her games, which deal with social and cultural issues, are usually not mainstream. She has developed games on topics like climate change and Twitter, as well as The Metagame, a game that encourages cultural debate.
Kristen Duvall is the Business Development Director at Unity Technologies, one of the most popular game engines around. Duvall has previously worked as a product manager at EA, as well as a global brand manager at Activision. She has also worked at Microsoft Game Studios, playing an integral role in the development of Halo 3, and contributed to Age of Empires III while at Big Huge Games.
As co-founder and studio director of U.K. studio Media Molecule, Siobhan Reddy has been an advocate for diversity in the gaming industry. To quote Reddy from the article on Good, “We have a duty to make sure that there are women in the industry. It would just help us make better games, more interesting games, more diverse games, new genres, and new stories.” Reddy was responsible for the game Tearaway, an award-winning mobile game based in a world made completely of paper. She was also named Qantas’ Australian Women of the Year in 2013, then awarded the honor of being one of Forbes’ 10 Most Powerful Women in Gaming in 2014.
There’s still a long way to go until women are equally represented in gaming. But with the rise of inspiring female entrepreneurs like the ones listed above, the future of gaming promises to be more balanced.