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When I greeted my game production class a couple of weeks ago, I was surprised. The group was racially and ethnically diverse, but there was not a single woman among the fifteen students. Last weekend I attended my first open house at The Los Angeles Film School, I was further disappointed that there was only one woman among the prospective students who came to hear about the school's Game Production Program. There appeared to be many women taking tours of the Film and Recording Programs, but those of us in the Computer Lab were visited by this one Russian woman who was interested in a career in game programming. Needless to say, the other Course Directors and I tried very hard to persuade her into enrolling in our program.
When I later inquired into the school's history with female Game Production program, I was told that there have been only a handful of women among the hundreds of the program's graduates.
While the Game Industry has always had a reputation for women being a tiny minority among its ranks, my own experience is that I've always worked with women throughout my career, and not just women who worked in Marketing or the Art Department.
At the first game company I worked at in the early 1980s, EduWare, there were two women programmers. Later, when I joined The Walt Disney Company in the late 1980s, my immediate supervisor was a woman, as was one of my fellow producers and the Vice President of our division. When I went on to work for a CD-I developer (I know, I know), the two production executives we dealt with at our publisher, Philips Interactive Media of America, were women. Years later, when I joined The 3DO Company to produce the Heroes of Might & Magic Series, my lead level designer was a woman, and I later promoted her to Assistant Designer. At Activision, our president, Kathy Vrabek, was (obviously) a woman; and when I joined the Spin Master toy company, my immediate supervisor, my assistant producer, and a programmer on my development team were women. So, women having programmer, producer, and production roles has been a constant throughout my thirty-year career, the question for me is: "why aren't there more of them?"
Is it a demand problem? Are there so many hiring managers in the game industry who have a hiring bias against women? I find that hard to believe. If any of my past colleagues have gender bias, they've done a very good job of hiding it from me.
Or is it a supply problem? Are there too few women interested in being game developers? According to 2010 ESRB study, forty percent of all gamers are female, so I also find it hard to believe that very few women are interested in being game developers.
I don't know what the answer is, but I do know one thing. I would love to have more female students in my class. And I'm always on the look out for good designers, programmers and producers to hire; all I care about is your talent.