Statistics show year after year that women still make up a small percentage of the games industry, with research by Creative Skillset finding it to be as low as 14%.
Many studios are taking steps to encourage more women to get into games, including VR developer and publisher nDreams, who have just secured a £2 million investment.
“It is widely known that there is a shortfall of women in lots of STEM subjects, and subsequently in certain sectors,” says nDreams’ HR Director Tamsin O’Luanaigh.
“The Games Industry is pioneering in so many ways, and I think we should be able to lead the way in equality and diversity. I have two school-age daughters and I want them to know that they can choose any career path they want to follow, and be successful if they work hard.”
Yet many women still face challenges in the industry. The Next Gen Skills Academy Gender Balance Workforce Survey found that many women still feel that there are barriers in place preventing them from progressing and developing their careers.
“I think the challenges women face in any industry are well documented,” says Tamsin.
“The games industry is just like any other in that regard, but the advantage we should have is that we are made up of innovators. The Virtual Reality industry is already seeing innovation across the globe, and if the various Women in VR groups are anything to go by, then collectively, changes are already taking place. If we can bring the same creativity we use making games to our recruitment, selection and ongoing employee relations, then what a great example to other industries.”
But what steps can games studios make to encourage more diversity in the workplace?
“Role models are important. If young students can see women in senior positions, and those experiences are shared, then they will know the options available to them. There are a lot of hurdles to jump in terms of inherent bias in recruitment, but education can help that. The current trend for male dominance in STEM subjects reduces the female talent pool, so we need to think creatively about advertising in different places.
The games industry is an exciting one and if you can educate your hiring teams to be open to new possibilities, and you can educate your target audience (in terms of recruitment) to understand your company culture and how it will work for them in terms of work/life balance then I believe people will want to come and work with you.”
Indeed, the problem continually comes back to the question of education, with the Gender Balance Workforce Survey reporting that employers often struggle to attract women to job vacancies, and that many attribute this to shortcomings in the educational system.
nDreams have taken measures to ensure that their studio encourages diversity and healthy work/life balance for everyone. This includes childcare vouchers, flexible working and an open and collaborative work culture. They also encourage their staff to enlist and speak at events as video games ambassadors, so they can actively inspire students on STEM and games-based courses to get into the games industry.
Their efforts have been successful and they now have women in two management positions, with Tamsin having been on the board since nDreams began.
“This is helping to normalise the female presence at all levels of the company,” says Tamsin.
35% of the permanent staff we recruited in 2016 are women, which is a huge increase on previous years, but it still only brings us up to about 20% across the company.
The excitement of working on innovative VR Tech has helped us with recruitment in 2016. Most of our recruitment has been due to company expansion rather than staff turnover. Our open, honest and collaborative culture has helped us recruit people who share our values, but it has also meant that those people want to stay.
We are making good progress in increasing diversity across the studio. There is good female representation in our Publishing, Operations, Design and Production teams, but I look forward to the day when I am overwhelmed with job applications from female coders!”
There may still be a way to go yet until we see equal numbers of men and women working games however it’s promising to see studios like nDreams making an effort to improve diversity in their studio.