Thursday 2 May 2013

Really? No women?

Recently, our studio began recruiting for a couple of new app programmers. Initially, I was concerned that we might not find enough candidates with the right skills. Now, I'm troubled to learn that we've got more than forty applicants… and not one of them is female.

I often hear our industry accused of being sexist, particularly in terms of the relative number of men and women it employs. However, our attempt to hire new staff suggests that the industry may not be entirely at fault – part of the problem may lie elsewhere.

Historically, I know that electronic games were once perceived as "boys toys" and that doubtless skewed the number of male applicants, as they were more likely to be interested in the sector. Yet now, women gamers are the norm. Females growing up in recent years have every reason to be interested in games, so it would be something of a statistical anomaly if they didn't make up a good percentage of applicants for new jobs.

Are there other reasons? It's certainly true that a lot of the content that the industry produces portrays female characters in a less than respectful light – consider the recent GTA-V trailer if you need a reminder. And there are often troubling stories on the web about sexist behaviour and language from individuals in the games industry. Such attitudes are clearly wrong, yet I doubt that they are unique to games. Are there really no cases of sexism in law, medicine, science, or journalism? Because if women are succeeding in other sectors that aren't yet free of sexism, then perhaps sexism isn't the only reason there are so few female programmers.

I don't profess to have the answers to this issue. But I'd dearly like to see a debate, and one which isn't immediately bogged down with (understandably) outraged stories of disrespectful language and Neanderthal attitudes. Because none of that explains why we got no female applicants. And why there were so terribly few female coders on the courses that our male applicants attended.

I can't believe that young women aren't interested in a well-paying career-type like this. Something must be amiss further back down the training path – maybe at college, maybe at school, maybe at home. Wherever the blockage is, wherever girls get the idea that they wouldn't be able to do this sort of job, needs to be addressed. Right now.

1 comment:

  1. I guess it is linked to the area being perceived as a 'scientific' one, and the historical male bias that brings with it. I work for an IT company, and I guess it's 90% + male dominated. This kind of figure tallies with the numbers on the college / university courses I took. Not sure how that will have changed now. My guess it's more a cultural issue than one of overt sexism.