When games project specialist Luke Crane tweeted on November 27, “Why are there so few lady game creators?” he didn’t realize that he would create a minor tweetstorm. But Crane’s observation touched upon a nerve—and not just because he used the word “lady” instead of the word “female.” Within the last twenty-four hours, games developers—both male and female—have weighed in, using the hashtag, “#1ReasonWhy.”
As Mother Jones reported, 47 percent of gamers are female, yet “more than 88 percent of the industry’s employees are male.” Compared to the general workforce, 53 percent is male. Games developers aren’t just speculating about the gender disparity. Many of them, mostly female, are spelling out their reasons in painful detail.
– Caryn Vainio, a video game UI/UX designer, tweeted, “Because I’m still referred to as a ‘girl’ gamer or developer, instead of a woman. At age 40.”
– Mattie Brice, game critic and designer, tweeted, “I had to make my own game in order to see someone like me as a main character.”
– BioWare marketer Heather Powers tweeted, “Because even at the director level I was told that ‘women in this company aren’t allowed to drive alone at night.’”
This hashtag has even jumped Twitter and is currently making its way through the general blogosphere. Blogger and games journalist Katie Williams has described multiple experiences of sexism both inside and outside the industry. For example,
– “Because when I tell the PR rep I want to look at AAA console games, he takes me to the pink Facebook games anyway.”
The list of reasons is long and growing.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission says,
“Prevention is the best tool to eliminate sexual harassment in the workplace. Employers are encouraged to take steps necessary to prevent sexual harassment from occurring. They should clearly communicate to employees that sexual harassment will not be tolerated. They can do so by providing sexual harassment training to their employees and by establishing an effective complaint or grievance process and taking immediate and appropriate action when an employee complains.”
I believe that gender discrimination and sexual harassment training needs to be standardized and codified, required on a national level, and enforced by sanctions (up to and including dismissal). Until that happens, this will continue to be the incongruous and sad throwback in an industry that prides itself on cutting-edge technology and bleeding-edge imagination.
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Thanks to Melissa Shaw.