At the Games Horizon event in Newcastle yesterday I watched an uncomfortable session when Chi Onwurah MP spoke about women (or rather, lack of them) in the games industry. The hostility towards her was understandable because she appeared to be scolding. But the substance of her arguments was right.
[Full disclosure – I am married to a senior pay-tv executive who has her girlpower moments.]
There ARE too few women in games. If the Sorting Hat was choosing career paths for kids based on raw talent and potential, I figure a fair proportion (half?) of those directed towards games would be girls. There would be many benefits of increasing the proportion of females – new perspectives, broader understanding of players, industry events wouldn’t be such sausagefests etc. But chief amongst them would simply be that the average quality of the workforce would increase.
This is mostly a supply-side issue, and Chi acknowledged this. It’s difficult to recruit women into the industry if they don’t apply for the jobs and/or have the right experience and skills. So education and other influences in childhood lie at the root of the solution.
But…the sector has a responsibility to contribute by making itself more welcoming to women. This is not about major changes, because things already seem pretty meritocratic. It’s about the little things that shift us from ‘neutral’ to ‘encouraging’ – like how job adverts are drafted, and celebrating female role-models, and making accommodating adjustments to working environments. And maybe cutting the Rt Hon MP for Newcastle some slack.