Where are the ladies in our industry?

With the women in games awards going ahead today and yours truly nominated as an influencer, I keep wondering where the ladies are in our industry. My objective when I entered the gamification world with my company in 2012 was to bring a feminine voice into the mix of a largely young (mainly white) male audience.

Since starting out a few other power ladies such as Marigo Raftopoulos, Monica Cornetti, Juliette Denny, Melinda Jacobs and Amy Jo Kim have been equally persistent and newer entrants such as Sabrina Bruewhiler are definitely bringing other flavours to the male mix. But there are still very few taking it up.

From my experience, entering a male-dominated world has been part and parcel of everything I have ever done. I had hoped that with the growing number of female role models, that maybe we are opening doors for others to follow. And maybe 6 years is not enough time to see a big difference, but at entry level, one would hope to start seeing new entries…

So far, I don’t see it.

I wonder how much time it takes to change the tide? And maybe the answer is simply that some women are put off by a mainly male dynamic or they are not shouting about their achievement and just getting on with it. Now, when I look for developers it becomes even harder to find ladies applying. To the extent that I have often been tempted to set up an all female company. The challenge I see with that is that it would also go against the optimal structure of a 50/50 gender split for productivity.

What is also interesting that all the ladies I respect and follow, tend to be upwards of 35 years of age. I wonder if that is also indicative of those of us who have developed the grit or persistence to keep going? For most of us of this vintage, we know and have navigated most of our career in the same manner and backdrop. In some regions around the world, I have come across the statement that gender minorities or discrimination don’t exist and whilst I like to believe that, the ratios and evidence provided tells a different story.

When I go looking for suppliers, I often look at the team makeup. The more technologically focussed an organisation is, the less the chance that they have women in their core technology teams. They do exist in marketing and HR for example. Every piece of research I have come across tells us the ideal balance is 50/50. Will it take an all ladies team approach to make this balance come to life? I mean it sounds counter-intuitive, but may be essential.

This morning I am also being interviewed for the initiative by Facebook on women in gaming, where they are collecting 100 stories of women in the industry by the end of 2018 under #shetalksgames. I love this initiative and just like the women in games group, it is actively encouraging more girls and women to take an interest in gaming and hopefully opening doors to gamification too.

As a sub-section of the games industry, I think the gamification world has a bit to go as well. We draw from the games industry for inspiration, methodology and often game psychology, it makes natural sense in my view to align closely with the bigger industry. Some people prefer gamification to be part of UX, but to me, that seems to be losing its very roots of where it originated. My initial role models Jane McGonigal and Phaedra Boinodiris came from games and technology backgrounds.

Encouraging inclusion is about providing role models and also about all of us joining in to make the balance work. Both men and women have a role to play in this. It starts with the culture and environment we present, knowing that what attracts women and men may be slightly different. Things like evaluating ideas from both genders equally will be an exercise in setting your bias aside. Encouraging good work to rise to the top and good candidates to feel accepted and welcomed, rather than left to fight for position.

Hyper-competition and public show-offs aren’t very attractive to most women, we will only go there when we feel we have an equal chance and the skills to do well. It will also deter some men by the way. If we look at more female-friendly environments, you will often find flexible arrangements, more social structures and a nurturing approach to growth rather than a competitive one only. At the same time, a lot of ladies value being judged on merit and contribution, and are not afraid to compete when in their view they fit about 90% of the skillset required to win.

As the first female winner of the Outstanding Gamification Agency Award, I wonder if we also need to encourage ladies by creating a top female award for the gamification industry?


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