Many industries have a gender imbalance, with men securing jobs over their female counterparts. It’s no surprise that the gaming industry is one of the worst for this, with gaming employees and audiences alike being predominantly male.
One excellent example of this is in the UK, where 49% of men and 48% of women play mobile games, but women make up only 19% of the teams who produced these. One company addressing this imbalance is Women In Games, who want to promote gender diversity in esports, and force gaming to be a socially responsible sector. The number of women working in esports is estimated to be about 5%, but professionals are becoming increasingly aware that women need to be welcomed into the industry to keep building on its success. Women In Games argue that women’s esports should exist in its own right, rather than being an add-on to the already established male equivalent. Another platform pushing for change in the industry is Womenize, a program designed to support women who want to pursue a career in media, IT, or the games industry. Womenize want to normalise gender equality in these professions.
Another contributor to the lack of female presence in the gaming industry are the huge pressures that are placed upon employees. It is suggested that in the US, video games companies pay less than other industries and offer unstable employment. They are also likely to provide poor health benefits, just adding to the issues that women already experience when trying to secure employment. Many argue that the work environment needs to become healthier and more sustainable as even male employees are underpaid, underworked and expected to work at unreasonable levels to meet demanding deadlines and game release dates. Women are expected to provide emotional labour both in and beyond the workplace, and as such, a greater work-life balance needs to be present in the gaming industry, instead of perpetuating a dangerous burnout culture.
On a brighter note, companies have now begun to go into schools to promote STEM careers to girls who may not otherwise consider these jobs to be accessible for them. Coding is now taught to girls in some schools and the US Girl Scouts have introduced badges in cyber-security.
Sexism is not only present in the gaming industry but is also prevalent in gaming communities all over the world, who have historically been exclusive and abusive towards female players. This abuse came to a head with the “Gamergate” controversy in in 2014. This harassment campaign began after game developer Zoë Quinn broke up with her boyfriend, and he posted over 10,000 words about her online, including a false claim that Quinn had slept with a journalist to secure a positive review for a game that she had worked on. Quinn, and the gamers who came to her defence, were subject to rape and murder threats.
Unsurprisingly, this has decreased the incentive for women to join online gaming communities. Some women claim that they practice games alone before they engage in multiplayer matches, listing this as a very “female” thing to do. Even worse, some women have experienced men masturbating live over headsets once their identity as female has been revealed. As a result of experiences such as these, women often keep their identity online a secret as they feel unwelcome in the online spaces that men feel entitled to.
Changes will hopefully be seen in gaming culture standards as female gamers become accepted, and as stereotypically male players begin to understand the wrongdoings of their behaviour. Additionally, users need to start being more critical of the content which they are fed by gaming companies, which is often misogynistic to attract male attention.