We speak to Ella Romanos about the new study into women working in the games industry

Why the Gender Balance Workforce Survey matters

Today, the Next Gen Skills Academy announced new research into the gender balance of the games industry’s workforce. A survey will run between now and Christmas Eve that aims to identify the biggest challenges and barriers facing women working in games.

One of the driving forces behind this research is Ella Romanos, co-founder of Strike Gamelabs and the now-defunct Remode Studios. We caught up with Romanos to find out more about this crucial project.

What is the aim of your research? What are you hoping to find out?
The aim of our research is to identify what challenges and issues women working in the games industry face, and start looking at ways to address them, through workshops that will provide an environment in which to discuss them openly and productively. This is just a starting point and we will also be sharing our research to encourage what we hope will be further work from industry over the coming years.

Why is this important?
It’s important because according to the Creative Skillset census of 2012, women only make up about 14% of the games workforce. Obviously there are multiple factors that affect this, and looking at women already in games is just one of the areas to consider, but if we can start to understand what challenges women already working or keen to work in games face, we can start to address those challenges. 

It’s also important because it’s a subject that comes up time and time again, but no one to my knowledge has actually tried to gather data on it. Whenever it is discussed it is always subjective and emotional because no one actually knows the answers, because so little research has been done on the topic, to really gather evidence of what is happening and why.

How are you conducting this research? What’s the Next Gen Skills Academy’s role?
The research will be conducted in three ways. The first is an online survey, which we are asking all women in games to complete. The second will be phone interviews with a selection of companies. The final step is an advisory group who will review the research findings and feed back to us. 

Next Gen Skills Academy conceived and is implementing the project as part of its overall goal of creating industry-led education initiatives. The project is also co-funded by Creative Skillset.

This project isn’t about any specific incident or harassment: it’s about building a picture of the long term challenges and issues that are faced by women in the industry.

How have recent events affected the appeal of working in games for women? What can/should be done about this?
Clearly there have been some prominent issues around women in games recently. Whilst these events have clearly been very traumatic for the people involved, harassment has and will continue to exist beyond recent incidents, and beyond just women. Therefore, while we certainly want to understand how harassment affects women working in games, this project isn’t about any specific incident: it’s about building a picture of the long term challenges and issues that are faced by women in the industry, from barriers to getting their first job, to breaking through to senior positions in the sector.

What can women bring to games development? Why is diversity important?
Games appeal to everyone. According to the Internet Advertising Bureau, 52% of gamers are now women, and the games market is growing. If we want to appeal to a broad demographic, we need to have a broad demographic in our industry, to bring different viewpoints and ideas to the table. This isn’t just women, this applies to diversity in general, whether it’s gender, socio-economic background or ethnicity.

How does the number of women in the games industry compare to that of other creative industries? What is the cause of this difference?
There are other creative industries in the UK that suffer from gender imbalance. The Creative Skillset 2012 census also highlighted Animation has having a low number of women at 40% and VFX at 19%, but games remains the least gender balanced industry with only 14% of the workforce made up by women. That is why we were trying to understand the cause and find solutions to address the situation.

How can developers support or find out more about your research?
Women in games can complete our survey before December 24th, by clicking to the following link: surveymonkey.com/s/GenderBalanceWorkforceSurvey2014

If you are an employer and would like to be interviewed, or for general information on the project please contact us on info@nextgenskillsacademy.com

Anything you want to add about your research, or the topic of women working in games?
It’s important to note that we know that the games industry is not alone in gender imbalance, other industries are heavily dominated by either men or women.

We also know that men face challenges in their careers in games, and that there is probably cross-over in a lot of the challenges we will get from this survey. It’s also true that there are other issues, such has not enough women applying for roles in the industry in the first place.

These are all things that are stated when the women in games debate comes up. However, just because we aren’t the only industry that has these issues, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t address it in our industry, or that it isn’t important. 

We recognise that there aren’t enough women applying for roles. However, by ensuring that games is an industry that women enjoy working in, we believe the project will be contributing towards the wider issue of getting more women to apply in the first place.

Overall, we believe it is important to look specifically at women in games, and address the challenges that they face, to help deal with the issue of only 14% of the workforce being women, and help develop our industry so that it is more comprehensive in the talent it hires, leading to better games with a broader appeal.

The Gender Balance Workshop Programme is a project run by Next Gen Skills Academy and funded by Creative Skillset’s Skills Investment Funds.

To contribute, fill in the survey by Wednesday 24 December at surveymonkey.com/s/GenderBalanceWorkforceSurvey2014. Companies and men interested in contributing can email info@nextgenskillsacademy.com

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