This past month I had the opportunity to travel to Sweden where I spoke at the Gotland Game Conference in Visby, Sweden.
The interesting thing about this conference is that it focused on the topic of diversity in the games industry, specifically in gender diversity. I was very surprised at the number of men present in the audience. In fact, I would say it was a predominantly male audience. This is very unusual for a gender diversity conference. More often than not, when speaking on gender diversity the audience is usually predominantly female so I end up “preaching to the choir”.
Because of this, there have been demands for the elimination of conferences, panels or talks targeting “women in games”, even the elimination of Women In Games organizations! Several women speakers have come out and said they will no longer speak at “women in games” events.[i] Specifically they do not believe it does any good to only speak to “half the audience.”
Let me be blunt. I think that’s a pretty horrible idea.
Now hear me out. There are a couple of reasons why…
1. Recent articles and events such as #1reasonwhy have brought to light one of the unpleasant truths about the games industry. There is a pervasive hostility and even aggression toward women.
The type of “laddish” behavior being brought to light by these articles and events can be VERY intimidating to women who might be considering the game industry as a career. By offering them a women’s event, we offer them place where they feel welcome, a place to explore the concept of the industry as a potential career choice.
For women in the industry, we offer them a place to find tools to grow their own career. We offer them the chance to talk to other women who are in the industry and experience it in a “safe” environment where they can feel more comfortable asking questions that might receive harsh responses in a mixed gender or predominantly male environment.
2. There is an amazing energy when you have a group of game industry women together in a room – energy you don’t find at a traditional game conference.
3. Besides the energy there is mentoring that goes on at these events as well as education and networking. These things may not always be comfortable or well received in a mixed gender event.
Over the past twelve months we’ve seen the tremendous amount of sexism that is in this industry brought to light. We’ve heard from women about how hurtful and damaging this type of activity can be to them, both personally and professionally. Until this type of thing no longer exists, I believe there is still a place and a time for events that are predominantly for women. I believe this gives women a place to find the courage to find their voice and experience some of the tremendous creative energy that is possible in that type of group.
Now, while I believe these events need to exist and veteran women in the industry need to be present at them, I also believe that we need to change the focus of those events.
The time for the anger and vitriol has passed.
In the early days we used that negative energy to build our own courage. We used it as a rallying point to gather other women together and find our voice.
But we have that now. We have found our voice. What we need to concentrate on now is building the positive and productive face we want the game industry to see.
It is my opinion we must refocus the goals of women’s game industry events. Rather than airing grievances and whipping up anger, we need to focus on the needs of the women who are attending the event. We need to concentrate on mentoring, networking, creative direction and positive progress. We need to focus on giving women the tools they need to be successful in this industry and then lifting up and celebrating those who are successful.
We need to build our networks, mentor each other, share our successes and lift up those women who are making a difference in this industry.
We need to make sure that when the industry hears our voice, it is a strong, united voice of positive progress, not a scream of anger!