We catch up with the conference's organisers ahead of next week's event

Why Women in Games needs men and mentors to get involved

The European Women In Games Conference returns to London next week, once again encouraging more diversity within the games industry and tackling some of the most important issues female games developers face.

This year’s conference takes place on Wednesday, September 2nd at London’s University of Westminster, and adds new skill and vocational workshops to the full day’s programme.

Other highlights include keynotes by Katherine Bidwell, co-founder Develop Award and BAFTA-winning studio State of Play Games, and UKIE chairman Andy Payne. You can find out more about the conference at www.ewigconf.com.

As the event approaches, we caught up with Women in Games founder David Smith and CEO Jenny Richards-Stewart to find out more about plans for this year’s conference and the future of women in the games industry.

How has the Women In Games conference evolved over the past few years? What have been the biggest changes?
David Smith, founder: The Women in Games Conference has grown in popularity and become established in the games industry calendar. Three years ago, it became a full day event and for the last two years it has evolved to take advantage of the multiple conference facilities offered by London South Bank University and, this year, the University of Westminster.

What are the crucial topics this year? What should people make sure they don’t miss?
Smith: This year we have focused on more variety in the topics on offer to meet the specific demands of a wide audience. The conference attracts many senior delegates who have attended in previous years but it also attracts a high proportion of students from universities all over the country.

A new series of ten workshops is an innovation for 2015. A cross between a roundtable and masterclass, delegates can take part in interactive sessions in programming, art, games design and testing or they can choose to learn about how to become a Video Games Ambassador or how to encourage more girls onto games courses at university. Traditional panels also give insights into the new virtual reality industry and remind the audience of the opportunities in making educational games and apps.

Why is it important that the conference covers topics that apply to both sexes working in the games industry?
Smith: The conference has an agenda that is attractive to women but the conference is equally aimed at men. It is unusual for men to be outnumbered by women at a games industry event. Experience has shown that the many men who do attend get at least as much out of the day as the delegates that are expected at this conference.

Is it still important to focus on issues that specifically affect women? How are you addressing this?
Smith: It is generally recognised that an improvement in the current gender imbalance that exists in the games industry will bring benefits to both men and women. This conference wants to do more than just talk about some of the issues. It is not possible for women alone to address to solve all the issues that specifically affect women. We need to see gender imbalance as an industry issue and encourage more men to get involved. Getting a ticket for the conference is a good first step.

What role does the mentoring scheme play in the Women In Games conference? Why is this scheme important?
Jenny Richards-Stewart, CEO:The conference gives us an opportunity to promote the mentoring program and the benefits which women will receive from being in the program. We firmly believe that such scheme is vital in supporting women and assisting them on their career path.

We are currently running a small pilot scheme so we can fine tune our offering and evaluate its usefulness . We have had some very high profile women offer their services as mentors for the pilot and have been over whelmed by the amount of interest from our members. The conference is also an opportunity to ask the industry to support the initiative.

What are you doing to grow the scheme going forward? How can members of the industry get involved?
Richards-Stewart:So far there is no shortage of Women in Games members who want to sign up for the mentoring programme but we do need more mentors from all disciplines. We are looking for people to work with our mentees for six one-hour sessions so it’s not a huge commitment in terms of time but is of massive value to our members. If anyone feels they would, like to be mentor please get in touch with me. Equally the scheme could use some funding and any organisation which like to sponsor this scheme which is of huge benefit to any employer should also get in touch.

What do you define as ‘true gender equality’ and how can we as an industry achieve this?
Richards-Stewart:True gender equality means representation of gender balance according to that population. We are working to educate and help our women to get and keep jobs in the games industry with a pledge to at least double the number of women working in games in the next ten years.

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