Opinion: ‘There is much work to be done before women are fairly represented across all disciplines’

First a confession: when I started in the industry, back in 1863, I didn’t really think that sexism applied to me. I was outspoken and thought that if you could ‘man up’ and work hard, you’d be fine.

I was wrong.

Maybe it’s hindsight – the most powerful of the senses – or maybe it’s the recent surge in attention on women’s careers that’s made me realise that perhaps my younger-self was a bit naive to the realities of working in a man’s world. 

The things that hold a woman back in the workplace can be very subtle: it’s not like your day resembles a scene from 9 to 5.  It can be exclusion from activities, like golfing for example, or the assumption that you’re the PA, or laughing along with a horrible joke about a female colleague because you don’t want to be ‘that girl’. All things I can see clearly now are wrong.

It’s hard to argue with facts: the gender pay gap in the UK is real. Currently the difference between average pay for male and female full-time employees is 9.4 per cent, and that has improved very little in the last five years. In fact, Deloitte estimates that it will be 2069 before that closes. And ain’t nobody got time for that.

Recent data from Creative Skillset makes bleak reading as well, with only 19 per cent of the workforce being female in comparison to the UK average of 45 per cent. Women are especially under-represented in both technical and management roles. And 45 per cent of women questioned by NextGenSkills feel their gender is holding them back. 

All of which shows there is much work to be done before women are fairly represented across all disciplines.

"I started around the launch of the first Tomb Raider and it’s taken a lot of iterations but at least she’s finally got a pair of trousers now."

Caroline Miller, Indigo Pearl

On a more positive note, my experience of other industries makes me grateful to be working in games, which does feel more progressive towards women. It might be because we are a younger industry that we don’t have that long tail of misogynist dinosaurs to deal with.

Perhaps a useful parallel for my time in the industry is to look at the evolution of female characters during the same period. I started around the launch of the first Tomb Raider game and, I grant you, it’s taken a lot of iterations but at least she’s finally got a pair of trousers now.

I have witnessed other small steps in the right direction, like Black Ops 3 featuring a female soldier and EGX moving away from booth babes. The demise of the lads’ mag culture has also led to games publishers moving away from using glamour models. It’s been years since someone asked me to hire girls and then have them topless but covered in paint at a launch party (that was a no obviously).

 So far so progressive, but I need to add a massive caveat out of respect for all the women in games in the public eye – due to the pure hostility that gets sent to them online. It is completely disgusting. It is unacceptable and must be challenged by our industry. I honestly don’t know how these women cope, and I fear it will drive some very capable individuals away from making and talking about games. That will be a great loss to our industry.

In conclusion, there has been progress, but it’s not enough and there is still a long way to go. As an industry, we need to do more, because diversity is good for everyone: men, women and of course the gamers themselves.

Events like the Women in Games Awards can only be a good thing. An acknowledgement of all the kick-ass female leaders in our industry and the promise of more to come. And we’re all allowed to wear trousers. 

Caroline Miller founded Indigo Pearl in 2000 after working in-house for Virgin Interactive and Crave. Indigo Pearl has won the MCV Award for best agency three years in a row and Caroline Miller just won Businesswoman of the Year (sponsored by Twitch) at the Women in Games Awards 2017

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