GDC 2014
Getting More Women to Work in Games Is Easy

Greg Tito | 20 Mar 2014 01:57
GDC 2014 - RSS 2.0

There's another myth that states that there are no women out there who have the requisite skills to work in games. Whether it's programming knowledge, or the production experience of shipping one game or five, women just don't have the skills they are looking for, the argument goes. Some executives have even gone so far as to suggest that because companies want women to work for them, and there are so few with the necessary skills, that hiring them would too expensive. Sampat and the rest of the audience could barely contain their laughter at that mentality. Women are too expensive to hire?

The truth is that invisible bias can hurt women in the resume review process. Some hiring managers admit to looking at men's resumes for potential, while scanning a female's resume for proof. "Do blind resume reviews and you'd be amazed how many women filter to the top," Sampat said.

Sometimes women aren't hired in the games industry because they wouldn't be a good "culture fit" - the most nebulous of terms. Most of the time that kind of a statement really just means the female candidate wouldn't be comfortable with staying at the studio around the clock, drinking beer and eating pizza, and going on company outings to the strip club. And yes, that might be true. "If you can't find women who can fit into culture, your company culture might suck," Sampat said.

Your company might need some growth, but not in workforce or revenue. "Your company has to grow," she said. "What would our companies look like if we judged growth of companies in other ways?" What if growth meant becoming more well-rounded and full of happy, productive, diverse employees instead of just more rich? The horror!

It's not just the men in the industry that have a responsibility to do something, the women who have made it into the ranks must be helpful as well. There's the myth that women can't be a part of the problem simply because they are themselves women. Sampat explained that there's a responsibility each woman has to always be "Lifting as We Climb" - a mantra popularized by Mary Church Terell, one of the first black women to earn a degree. Even as she fought and scraped her way to the top, Terell was always there to help her fellow women, and Sampat asked every woman in games to do the same. Talk to young women about games, speak with them about your work, and they will follow.

Sampat ended her talk in a very personal way. Her ten year old daughter recently said she wanted to be a game designer and Sampat admits being very hard on the little girl. She makes her daughter write one sheet specs of the games she wants to make and forces her to be as driven as a young lady can be.

"I would do anything to shield her from the kinds of things that I've been through," Sampat said. "But I am part of the problem. Every time I worry about making her tougher, instead of making the industry gentler, I am complicit. I am ready to stop. Are you?"

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