According to the latest figures listed on the UK games industry fact sheet, just 19% of those working in the games industry in the UK are women. This compares to the current UK average of 47% of the workforce being women.
Of those women working in the industry who responded to the Gender Balance Workforce Survey, a third had experienced harassment or bullying because of their gender and 45% felt their gender had been a limiting factor in their career progression.
Why women aren’t speaking out
In 2012, both women and men took to Twitter on the #1ReasonWhy, in response to the question raised by a male designer and games specialist, “Why are there so few ‘lady game creators’?”. The hundreds of comments showed the pain and frustration felt, reflecting the reality of working in a male dominated industry – albeit an industry where women make up almost half of its mobile gaming consumers.
One of the reasons that has been stated for not speaking out is that when you are in such a minority, it wouldn’t be difficult for others to work out who you are, and many consider the risk to their future career development too great.
In another historically male-dominated institution
On 15 October this year, Dame Laura Cox’s report into the bullying and harassment of House of Commons staff, raised the issue in another workplace that has historically been male-dominated. The 155-page report includes shocking and harrowing comments and allegations.
In the section ‘Alleged sexual harassment by house staff’, it was found that, “There is a widely held view among contributors that behaviour of this kind, whether alleged against Members or House staff, has simply not been tackled effectively over many years. Many women feel angry and let down as a result.”
The report found that the strong advice given by some managers was, “that they ought not to contemplate bringing a complaint”. A widely held fear amongst staff was that if they used the ‘valuing others policy’ to raise a complaint, they risked losing their job. As this contributor confirmed, ”I love my job and I knew if I officially reported X’s behaviour I would make staying in my current role very difficult and would suffer more stress.”
Encouragingly, Dame Cox doesn’t believe the problems are insurmountable but states that they are urgent and serious and which “the House now needs to tackle properly, once and for all”.
The part training can play in challenging a culture and creating awareness
In her recommendations regarding training, Dame Cox states that, “People who really need training of this kind, addressing behaviour, attitudes and understanding others’ perspectives, tend not to volunteer or self-refer. The training should certainly be mandatory for all staff, including those at the most senior levels.”
As a provider of training to tackle bullying, harassment and sexual harassment in the workplace, In Equilibrium regularly work with organisations who are putting the systems and structures in place to support diversity, inclusion and respect. Such organisations are seeking to actively promote a culture where bullying and harassment are not tolerated and staff are encouraged to report, being openly reassured that there will be no adverse consequence of them doing so.
Expert trainer Snéha Khilay explains,
“Fundamentally, it is important for all of us to be aware that, whilst we have made huge strides in moving away from explicitly negative and sexually inappropriate behaviour, subtle comments and remarks considered to be innocuous, are damaging and help maintain the ripple-like effect of discrimination against women. We need to be more aware of subtle sexism in the workplace, the need to move away from stereotypes and to place a greater focus on treating people as individuals and not labelling them with the group that they represent.”
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