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  • The end of the beginning of the gender imbalance in UK games industry?

    A remarkable event took place at the offices of BAFTA in Piccadilly last Wednesday. A Director of the games trade body TIGA sat next to the Chief Executive of games trade body UKIE. A director of the sector skills council e-skills UK sat 2 places away from a Partnership Manager from sector skills council Creative Skillset. School masters sat down with university lecturers who sat down with games development leaders from studios like Bossa, EA Criterion, Sony Computer Entertainment, TT-Fusion, Lady Shotgun, Swallowtail and 22 Cans. All in all, 35 leaders from the games, creative and technology sectors came together with a common desire to take action to bring more young women to consider a career in the games industry.

    BAFTA’s Career Pathways Survey of 2077 young people aged 16-24 published in November 2012 had identified 3 areas of concern that spread across all the creative industries. More was needed to improve the outreach to schools (primary and secondary), colleges, universities and careers advisers. There needed to be an online aggregation of careers advice and guidance. This included skills requirements, qualifications and training, work placements and initiatives. And there needed to be changes to creative industry recruitment practices, including work experience and internships. Lead by BAFTA’s Learning and Events Committee, chaired by Anne Morrison, 3 working groups have started to tackles these 3 issues.

    The survey also highlighted a further, single issue that affected only a single industry. The industry was the games industry and the single issue was “girls into games:  how to enable more young women to consider a career in the games industry”. The survey showed clearly that gender is a factor in choosing a career in games. While 38% of 16-24 year old males have, at some time, wanted to enter the games industry, just 9% of females have ever considered it. Similarly, just 4% of female respondents are currently doing a course, work experience or job related to games, compared to 18% of males. Females are more likely to be discouraged than males in career decisions. Compared to 14% of males, 21% of females who had previously considered a career in film, television or games were discouraged by parents, family of friends. Over a quarter of females (28%) felt that they would not fit in to the industry, compared to just one in five males (20%).

    The meeting last week was chaired by Siobhan Reddy, Studio Director at Media Molecule and member of BAFTA’s Games Committee and Johnny Minkley, Vice President at SpecialEffect and member of both BAFTA’s Learning and Events Committee and BAFTA’s Games Committee. Other organisations attending included the BCS Academy of Computing, IGDA, Next Gen Skills Academy, Lady Geek, Women in Film & TV and Women in Games Jobs. All parties present were asked to introduce themselves and their motivations for coming together to address this issue. Many spoke passionately about their personal experience in working in the games sector or the need to make things better for family members or relations. There was no time to agree to set goals and objectives or start to define responsibilities but this will be agreed at future meetings. The journey has started.

    Full credit goes to BAFTA for the inspiration in identifying and standing up to looking at a single issue in a single industry and bringing together the leaders that are committed to bringing more your women into the games industry.  This is not the beginning of the end of the gender imbalance that permutates across the games workforce in the UK but it is perhaps the end of the beginning.

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