The much-awaited first deadline for the government’s gender pay gap database came on April 4th, making it a legal requirement for all UK companies with over 250 employees to declare the difference between men and women’s aggregate salaries.
Many of the biggest games and media companies in the UK have complied, while some big names are notably absent, often due to the way these companies are structured as either part of much larger firms or separated into multiple sub-250 person businesses.
The data shows the difference in salaries using both mean and median averages. The comparison doesn’t necessarily indicate that a given company is paying women less for the same job — which has been illegal since 1970’s Equal Pay Act — but it shines a light on the endemic problems in the industry that need to be resolved. For example, that there are few women reaching senior positions.
To demonstrate that, the data shows how many employees in each quartile of the workforce – ranked by salary – are women. The top quartile is the top quarter of earners at the company, while the bottom quartile makes up the lowest earners.
Gender pay gap data
Here’s the data from the largest UK games companies and some of those with large gaming segments (such as Microsoft and Warner Bros)
For those struggling to remember their school maths lessons: mean is all the wages (of men or women) added together and divided by the number of people to create an average wage. The two mean figures are then compared to create the precentage figure below.
Median is simply the wage of the person who would stand in the middle if we made all the women (or men) in the company stand in a line based on how much they earned. The figure compares the median man’s wage to the median woman’s wage.
Some of the more startling variances in the gender pay gap database belonged to Rockstar North and Sumo Digital. Rockstar has by far the biggest disparity between mean salaries, at 64 per cent. So women at the company earn just 36 pence for every £1 earnt by a man.
Sumo Digital, which has a high 33.7 per cent difference in mean salaries, also struggles in other areas, with only 2.5 per cent of the top-paid half of the company consisting of women.
Karen McLoughlin, the group director of HR at Sumo Digital, talks about the company’s gender imbalance head on: “We’ve been working on internal initiatives to support recruitment, retention, career development and mentoring for some time which, alongside our graduate programmes, will help address the gap in the long term.
“In the short to medium term, we are taking a more proactive approach in our search for candidates to address the imbalance. I do see positive progress at Sumo, and across the industry, for the future.”
And for long-established studios with a vast preponderance of long-serving male staff, who are happy to remain with the firm, progress is bound to be slow shifting those figures.
GAME, perhaps by strength of the number of employees it has in fixed pay bands at retail locations around the country, has just a 1.9 per cent difference in mean salary per hour. That said, only 20 per cent of those in the top quarter of earners are women.
It’s harder to judge the figures of the platform holders and publishers as many either don’t have enough UK staff to qualify or they are part of larger organisations, such as Xbox at Microsoft.
Many of the problems highlighted by the gender pay gap database are the results of broader social issues, but that doesn’t mean the industry can’t be a leader in this area, both to make improvements within games companies and to help along that wider societal change through the medium of games.
Hannah Flynn, the communications director for Failbetter Games, says that the firm tries to improve the diversity of its workforce at every stage. The London-based narrative games outfit takes work experience people from local schools, trying to enable 14 and 15 year-old’s from underrepresented backgrounds through to internships.
Failbetter specifically targets those from different backgrounds in the way it advertises its job offers, in addition to putting them on websites like Autostraddle and using traditional recruitment channels.
“We make active use of consultations and freelancers to broaden the representation of different voices in our writing,” adds Flynn.
“In the end, it’s the games we make that do the most to show people who aren’t commonly represented by games that they have a place here.”
This is a laudable effort, and is part of the reason that five of the studio’s 13 employees are women. However, a large part of the problem isn’t just getting women into the industry, but making sure they have an equal chance to get the top jobs. So just how much can the industry do to fix the problem?
We speak to Keza MacDonald,The Guardian’s games editor, who says the games industry can only do so much to address this problem until society itself takes steps towards equality.
“Until we have affordable state-funded childcare and equal parental leave, until those things are achieved, we’re always going to have a gender pay gap because the burden of childcare is always going to fall on women,” says MacDonald, pointing out that while equalities exist in law, that’s a long way off it being the cultural norm.
Having to carry the brunt of the burden on childcare, as MacDonald mentions, means women are dropping out of the workforce to take career breaks or moving to less demanding roles. Therefore, they’re not ending up in senior positions that pay better and which they deserve.
“I don’t think that late stage capitalism and equality go together,” MacDonald continues. “You are always going to have people who are disadvantaged and who never manage to make up for it.”
To arrest the pay gap, she says things have to change or we’ll have the problem forever: “We need to get to the point where as many men as women choose to take time off to look after their children, which we’re getting close to in Sweden and Finland, so it’s possible but it would require an enormous change in the entire outlook of our entire society in the UK for that to happen.”
MacDonald adds she’s fortunate that her role with The Guardian has given her a lot of flexibility, but she was lucky enough to already be at a senior position in her career at the time: “Many women in their late twenties or early thirties aren’t at a point in their career where they can dictate terms. This disadvantage then lasts the rest of their careers.”
As the summer approaches, our industry once again prepares to send its best and brightest all over the globe in the service of video games. And when you’re at E3 or Gamescom have a think about how many women you see there and remember how difficult this industry can be.
Childcare isn’t the only issue, but it’s something that clearly requires a big change – and where that change requires clear funding. The endemic gender inequality in society, and by extension the games industry, can’t be solved with any such single change but a diverse range of perspectives are absolutely essential so that the industry can move forward.
We have a big pool of data now to backup what everyone largely knew already – that the games industry needs both more women and more senior women.
It’s true that the wider games industry doesn’t fare badly compared to its closest siblings such as the music or film industries – though that’s no reason for celebration of course.
The national average is 18.4 per cent, so even putting societal factors aside, many games companies can do better. It’s time to think about how we can all work together to ensure women are getting the success they rightfully deserve in the games industry.
So let us champion your initiatives and successes. Get in touch with your targets and strategies to make change happen. Tell us how you will get more of the best and brightest women into your company and how you can help them progress once there. And also how you are helping encourage broader societal change through your work to demand equality for all.
Just email MCV’s Seth Barton at Seth.Barton@futurenet.com.