How can studios go about widening their talent base to include developers from the fairer sex? Angela Fenge, operations and marketing director at Zoë Mode, reveals a few secrets�

Hiring the elusive female developer

When we rebranded our studio to Zoë Mode back in March last year, one of the goals we had in mind was to attract more female developers to the studio.

As we all know, games development has traditionally been the domain of young men, but we were keen to break that mould and have a much more diverse team. We felt that putting a friendly face on our brand and making clear our focus on non violent social games would help to attract women to our studio. We weren’t wrong.

In the last year we’ve managed to attract a number of new female staff to the studio, almost exclusively from outside of games development. By looking to other industries we’ve found experienced project managers that are excited about our studio and the games we make. We have female staff working on projects such as SingStar – often musicians who would never normally have considered joining a games development company, who have then gone on to other roles within the studio, working as designers and project managers.

Of course, it’s still difficult to find female staff; applications from men outweigh those from women by more than ten to one, even more when you look at programming and senior management roles. Without industry-wide research it’s hard to put a figure on what the average gender split is amongst the global development workforce, but at Zoë Mode ten per cent of our staff are female – a number we hope will increase in the coming year.

For many people there remains a perception of the games
industry as a boys club, gaming being something that women just ‘don’t do’. While for a long time that was largely true, gaming is unquestionably hitting the mainstream now and we believe that for us to make the best games for our target audience, we need to be like our target audience.

So what are we doing? We’re talking to students, not just at universities, but at colleges and schools, we’re trying to open their eyes to the games industry and the opportunities that it presents. We’re working with initiatives such as Dare to be Digital to help encourage more female students to get involved and give games a go. We’re improving our working conditions; providing flexitime and cutting out crunch, so that a healthy work life balance is possible. We’re looking outside of games development for people with the right skills and experience to transfer across into our studio and bring new perspectives and ideas into our teams.

More than that, though, we need to promote our industry as a positive place to be, we need to provide a counterbalance to the negative stories in the mainstream media. Games are not just a violent misogynistic playground for disturbed teenage boys, they are a social activity for people of all ages and they can be a positive influence in our lives. We believe that by working to change the perception of our industry we can encourage more women to join us in making games for everyone.

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