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"We Don't Need Diversity" and Other Conference Myths
by Robin Yang on 09/27/13 05:10:00 pm   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

Last week, I spoke out about the all-male speaker list at the Gaming Insiders Summit here in San Francisco in October. Though I was initially happy to see they’d chosen a handful of male friends of mine, I was stunned to see that there were no female speakers listed (although a few of us joked that the placeholder “Special Guest” silhouette COULD have been a woman, it later turned out to be Ken Levine). Despite being somewhat jaded about the situation and in disbelief that any well-meaning organizer could’ve missed such a glaring issue, I ended up spending the greater part of a day trying to find out what had led to this situation and pushing for a change.

Thankfully, I was met with support from my peers and a surprising ally where I thought there would only be adversaries  -- Gaming Insiders founder David Kaye and I ended up having a thoughtful conversation where I continued to insist that there was a solution and in the end, he and his co-founder Kristin Alexander came up with some possible options to feature more women in their lineup, admitting in the process that he was embarrassed that the lack of diversity had to be pointed out to them. As of this writing, they’ve updated their speaker list to include TechCrunch journalist Kim Mai-Cutler, UCSC’s Associate Director at the Center for Games and Playable Media Jane Pinckard, and Kongregate co-founder Emily Greer.

That said -- three women out of a total 20 speakers is still a far cry from what a diverse lineup could look like, and that this issue went unaddressed until it was directly pointed out remains a red flag about the state of the game industry. And while it was great to hear from people with a similar degree of frustration as mine, it was shocking and disappointing to read posts from those insisting that there wasn’t a problem with speaker representation and diversity at all.

So, I wanted to address and dismantle some of the more oft-repeated and harmful misconceptions that we hear given as excuses for why low numbers of women speaking at game conferences isn’t a problem. These excuses have been criticized by others before, but since they continue to pop up, it’s worth continuing to point out that at best, they are wrong, and at worst, they perpetuate tired stereotypes about who does and doesn’t belong in the game industry.

 

#Six Reasons Why

1. "We don't look at gender or quotas, we just focus on choosing the best."

The speaker selection process for events like the Gaming Insiders Summit, GDC, Indiecade and so on varies from organization to organization, but suffice to say that the goal is to get the “best” speakers lined up for the benefit of your audience. How an organizer quantifies “best” depends on what their conference is focused on, so given that even the most well-intentioned selection process will be subjective (because we’re human), what are the chances that all of the “best” speakers happen to be men?

Let’s even posit that your conference is focused on the culture of hyper-masculine, AAA multiplayer, first-person shooter types of games, the kind that women are still routinely harassed for playing. Would you truly be able to say that there were no women more qualified to speak on the subject than even the least qualified of your male speakers, that there would be nothing gained from having a female perspective on the matter? In an age where 45% of gamers are women (and 60% of mobile gamers are women), you’d have to be organizing an event for an incredibly specific niche of the industry for this to hold true.

 

2. "We asked one woman, but she said no."

Making an attempt for one token representative of a different gender (or a minority) doesn’t win you any ‘karma’ points. It’s not enough to just think of being inclusive (see Louis C.K.’s segment on giving up his airplane seat). You have to value the end result of actually having a diverse speaker list, and commit more than the minimum amount of effort to make it happen.

What does it say to your attendees about how thoughtfully you’re spending the hundreds (sometimes thousands) of dollars they’ve paid to be there if such seemingly little attention is paid to the selection of voices they’ll be hearing from? Organizers routinely track down and secure dozens of highly sought-after and busy entrepreneurs and CEOs for their keynotes -- to give up after just one or two turned the opportunity down would be unheard of.

Here’s another solution: even if your first choice for a female speaker isn’t available, she’s bound to know other women who would happily be considered. Ask her for a top five list of candidates and get started from there.

 

3. "We've already filled our speaker spots, so there's nothing we can do now."

If you are the organizer of an event who knows about the importance of diversity, then who exactly is holding you back from making changes necessary to better reflect those values? Given that speaker lineups are publicized well in advance of the actual conference to boost interest, it seems unlikely that there are no possible changes to consider. Even high-profile and complex events like GDC are able to accommodate last-minute amendments, cancellations and substitutions. If we’re creative, there are more options on the table than having to drop existing speakers. Here are a handful of ideas:

  • Add a new panel so that you can shuffle existing speakers around to create new openings (hint: not a new panel specifically about women developers).
  • Rent another room at a hotel down the street or find a happy-hour bar or cafe to crash.
  • Add additional speakers to existing panel sessions.
  • Raise the issue with your board, and with your existing speakers. See if they feel just as uncomfortable with the status quo and want to help find solutions.

Sure these are unconventional practices, but I’d wager that your attendees would appreciate the extra effort taken to provide them with what they’ll see as *extra* value.

 

4. "There are so few female developers in the industry!"

Comparatively, sure. But we are not an industry of 100 people. While it’s true that women make up roughly 10% of the game industry, there is no shortage of talented, capable and passionate female developers. They’re not hard to find - in fact, they’re often more visible due to the communities used to network with each other. Just take a look at the Women in Games International and Women in Gaming organizations that foster conversation among these groups on a daily basis. Anyone on those boards could give you a dozen contacts to reach out to, including a lot of names that will ring a bell (“Oh right, there have been women involved in high-profile, mega-successful game launches”) as well as many that have flown under the radar.

A related sentiment: "But there are so few female leaders in the industry!"

Let me Google that for you.

 

5. "They're not established enough.”

Look, I understand that an event needs a handful of “known” personalities to draw attention to itself, but if your entire speaker list is made up of established players in this space, you’re basically telling me that I’m paying you hundreds of dollars to hear things that I could sit home and YouTube instead.

‘Not established’ should be looked upon as a huge opportunity. Whose organization gets name-dropped and linked to when the video of a smart, fresh new voice in the games industry goes viral? I’d be much more willing to take a chance on an event that presents us with never-before-heard-of rising innovators (men and women both!) than one that simply gathers well-known veterans, no matter how interesting and relevant they still may be, especially in a rapidly-changing landscape.

 

6. "We called for proposals and only a few women submitted."

This one may in fact be a legitimate reason an event ends up with fewer female speakers than ideal. The larger trend of women’s tendencies not to put themselves forward has been well-documented in the issue of wage gaps, institutional inequities and so forth -- it’s also appeared in our own industry, as lamented by No Show Conf organizer Courtney Stanton, who shared this about her experience:

When I’d talk to men about the conference and ask if they felt like they had an idea to submit for a talk, they’d *always* start brainstorming on the spot. I’m not generalizing — every guy I talked to about speaking was able to come up with an idea, or multiple ideas, right away…and yet, overwhelmingly the women I talked to with the same pitch deferred with a, “well, but I’m not an expert on anything,” or “I wouldn’t know what to submit,” or “yes but I’m not a *lead* [title], so you should talk to my boss and see if he’d want to present.” […] I came away from the process of promoting and recruiting potential speakers with a bitter, unwilling sympathy for event organizers who say, “there aren’t any women speaking because no women applied.”

Legitimate reason? Yes. Excuse to perpetuate the status quo? Hardly. There are numerous ways to get more female applicants (Courtney mentions reaching out to them directly to solicit pitches); as an organizer, the important point is recognizing that if you know that there’s a problem, and that problem is standing directly in the way of your event getting the best speakers that it can, then you absolutely must do something to address it. Yes, one half of the solution is figuring out how to encourage more women to submit proposals on their own -- the other half is showing them without a doubt that they’ll not only be welcomed, but that their participation is vital to your event’s success.

 

Here is what you can do

If you are planning a conference and you'd like to have a more diverse speaker list, there are plenty of groups like aforementioned organizations who whose members would be happy to help you find qualified women. There have also been attempts at assembling references here and here. The key here isn't to create a panel about diversity (IMO, we’ve had plenty of “What It’s Like to be a Woman in Games” panels), it's about having the speakers reflect more broadly what the industry composition is, and therefore present a more well-rounded set of viewpoints. Knowing what we know about the ratio of women to men applying for speaker positions, if you are wholeheartedly intent on getting more women on stage, recognize that it will take additional effort on the part of your team to get those applications in the first place.

If you are asked to speak at a conference, inquire about their selection/vetting process and specifically ask about how many women are currently confirmed to speak. I’m sympathetic that there may be business, branding, and/or personal reasons that you may not want to make waves when a conference has already accepted you, but a way to be a part of the solution is to raise the issue and make sure the organizer is aware of inherent biases that might otherwise go unchecked. These events reflect the values of the participants too, after all.

And lastly, if you are attending a conference, you’re going to take a look at the speaker list anyways -- make a note of how many women you see listed. If they don’t have diverse representation in the speaker lineup, email the organizer and let them know you’re disappointed. Offer the names of speakers you’d love to hear about the topics they’ve already listed. Suggest that you are not interested in attending if they decide not to make any changes. We've spent weeks discussing why many of us are choosing not to support Penny Arcade with our money, and we should do the same with the conferences we attend. These patterns won’t change unless the audience becomes more vocal about the values they hold, and hold back on their support for events that show otherwise.

 

Diversity is not just for women

Getting more women speakers onto conference schedules is not the only axis we can improve diversity on. When was the last time you attended an ethnically diverse conference? Most of the misconceptions addressed above are magnified even more when it comes to non-white representation (with the major exception of eastern Asians). Or what about those from different socioeconomic statuses? The costs of flying to a convention in another city and book a hotel if it’s not covered are non-trivial. The ability to take time off from a day job (especially if you are in one outside of the industry) or find caregivers for your kids, and the kicker, to actually have the time to prepare content for a talk is not inconsequential for many people. What are some creative solutions we can come up with to equalize the access to information we have in the industry?

We need to continue to address these issues comprehensively before we’re able to insist that our events offer the “best” content. Let’s start with getting better, more balanced content by thinking critically about the diversity of speakers we invite. Is it going to be easy? Hell no. But it starts with a conversation, and the sooner we get past these irrational excuses for not having a woman featured in your speaker lineup, the sooner we’ll find solutions.


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Comments


Rui Mota
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I definitely oppose the quota thinking. If asking better is the missing link to get a better panel I hope every conference organizer gets it. In the mean time I wish we all get beyond the “What It’s Like to be a Woman in Games”.

Alex Boccia
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Gama puts out one of these articles every day. Get over it, people, and make stuff happen!

Katy Smith
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Because not talking about a problem is always the best solution to the problem. -_-

Kris Ligman
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This is a blog, not an editorial. We don't dictate what people blog about (though we do try to highlight the best stuff). If it ends up that a number of our members blog about diversity in the industry, it's because it's a subject that matters to them.

Harry Fields
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And given the activity in the comments section, I would argue there's a good reason these blog posts and articles get prime coverage.

Simone Tanzi
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I'm sorry but the point 6 kinda throws everything out of the window.
As a former Convention host I can tell you...
Aside from people you absolutely NEED to have (those discussed in the point 5) whenever you offer a place for a conference you get swarmed by people eager to take a place.
Aside from the obvious practicality of having people coming to you rather than having to reach out for other people, it is plain unfair to deny a spot to someone prepared and eager to partecipate only to be filled with someone who is unsure about her intervention and not really looking forward to it.
I would like to have a lot more diversity in these situations but not at these conditions.
Nobody can help women if women doesn't start helping themselves in the first place.

Rob Wright
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Rui, Alex and Simone...I'm guessing none of you have daughters. Sorry for the presumption, please correct me if I'm wrong.

The video game industry is not a friendly place for females. Pretending otherwise is absurd. So when Simone writes that women need to first start helping themselves, well, I find that odd since a significant portion of the industry and gaming audience seems bent on making this world a truly uncomfortable and unwelcome place for females. It's no wonder more women developers/gamers don't put themselves in the spotlight on panels, guest columns or other public forums. I'm not arguing for industry to move mountains or aything -- I just think a little more courtesy and encouragement would go a long way to making women feel more comfortable voicing their views and opinions. You know, like being a little more supportive with your forum/article comments instead of saying "Get over it!"

Harry Fields
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I have two daughters, the eldest of which has no problems voicing her opinions. I live in Estrogen land, so I'd like to think I have a solid understanding (or at least as solid as a guy could have) of the magical female mind. I also agree with these 3 cats to a degree. My wife, and daughters believe in meritocracies... and don't want any special treatment or a helping hand just for being female. And there are plenty of studios with zero tolerance for harassment or otherwise degrading behavior towards women. So I have to disagree that the "whole" industry is hell-bent on making women, (or minorities or LGBT people) feel uncomfortable. If anything, the young blood in many of these shops is some of the most progressive-minded talent you'll find anywhere. A little immature (who isn't in their 20's?) at times, but still very open-minded, tolerant and prone towards embracing diversity and equality. I know there are exceptions where the place is run like a frat house out of Animal House, but I'm seeing that as increasingly the exception.

Rob Wright
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Fair point, Harry. But let me clarify -- I wrote "a significant portion" of the industry is hell-bent on making women (and yes, LGBTs), not the "whole industry."

But a smaller, vocal minority can do a lot of damage to an industry and real poison the atmosphere for a lot of folks. And it gives the industry a really bad name. Do I think the majority of the gaming industry is sexist and misogunist? Absolutely not. And you're right, there's a lot more diversity than there was 10 years ago, and younger people seem more more willing to embrace it. But there's still a long way to go, dontcha think? I mean, how else do explain what's transpired with Penny Arcade recently? That whole episode (actually, two episodes, sadly) was unbecoming of an organization as large and respected as PA. And yet....here we are.

My point is, all it takes is a few crass, offensive and threatening comments toward females to make them feel unwelcome. We can sit back from out catbird seats as men and say "toughen up!" or we try to help foster a more civil environment for our female counterparts. Again, I'm not advocating much. It mostly comes down to repelling trolls and convention creeps. But hey, it's a start.

Harry Fields
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@Rob,

No I hear you, and agree to the overall spirit of what you're saying. I just don't want to discount the tremendous progress that has been made since the early 90s when almost every shop in the industry would've easily qualified for sexual harassment lawsuits. I'm truly believe we are at a point where there are women who are more than capable and have the cred to handle a keynote or get a workshop or the like. But if I'm the organization, do I tell Will Wright, "Sorry dude... I know you're a legend... and still relevant, but we're going to give the keynote address to Kellee Santiago" (nothing against you, Kellee!) because she's, well, a woman and will increase the diversity of our speaker lineup? Yes, Kellee is a very talented and extremely business-saavy professional, but she has yet to build her legacy so her name lacks some of the punch that the more prominent males in the industry have. And because of the relative youth of our industry and only recent move towards a culture that embraces diversity, it's safe to say, as a generalization, that many of the key women in gaming don't yet have a decades long reputation, and many whom would (Roberta Williams for example), retired from the industry in the 90s when things *were* so bad from a diversity perspective industry-wide.

I guess all I'm saying is that the women in the industry who are brilliant are in the process of building their name and their legacy. As they do, I believe things will organically evolve and they'll get more keynote spots, etc on the basis of their achievements and accomplishments, and not just to fill a quota. And I think that's the way it should be.

Christian Kulenkampff
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@Harry: The idea of meritocracy is flawed and distressing.

The video game "Gender Wars" seems to picture the ridiculous way how (too) many people here seem to look at sexism: "After eons of fighting between the genders, men and women have broken into separate factions, each using genetic engineering to create new followers, and waging terrible war upon each other."

Simone Tanzi
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well, I may sound harsh but actually, my comment is not a "get over it" at all.
Is a clarification on one of the points made by the author.
While I can say that point 1 to 5 is partial or total bullshit and I agree on the need for more women represented in gaming summits there is really no way a man can make a woman stand out in the industry if the drive doesn't come from them first.
All we can be is facilitators, and let's be clear, a lot of us men could do so much more on that regard, that's out of the question.
But still, if I was to host conventions again, and I was doing anything focused on videogames, I would really need a woman to at least reach out and say "I'm Interested"
I can't really justify turning off 20+ male applicants for a convention that reach out personally and presents a paper on his desired debate on the off chance that someone else will agree to come to my conference even when she gave no sign of being interest in it in the first place, has no clear Idea on what to present and is not that committed anyway just for the sake of inclusion.
In order for inclusion to work we may open the door, but is the women who has to step in.

Again ... Whenever they do (and they actually do sometimes) I am an happy person, and whenever someone do and is denied an opportunity I do get as mad as you do.
But when it simply doesn't happen ... what can I say?

Rob Wright
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"When it simply doesn't happen..."

Simone, you're making it sound like it's just a basic lack of motivation or interest on the part of women. I don't think that's it. For females to want to be part of the game development industry, they have to enjoy and love games. But why would women want to get into the industry if they're subjected to insults/abuse/unwanted sexual advances when they're playing? Why would they want to go into an industry that (not always or even often) belittles them and treats female characters as little more than eye candy and overragerated, oversexualized toys?

And let's say you get over that hurdle. Let's say as a female you decide "Hey, I'm going to use that as motivation, I want to make games for people like me and I want to have positive female potrayals in games!" Great. But now, if you go on a panel or take a public role as a female game developer, your anonymity that you enjoyed as a gamer is gone. All of that abuse you may have dealt with is now directed at your name. There's no hiding from it. Look at what happened to Anita Sarkeesian -- for crying out loud, the woman simply started a freakin' Kickstarter and look at the venomous backlash she got.

And let's say you stay away from critiquing gender and sexism in games. Let's say you just play it straight and avoid controversy and make great games. Well, you may still get the kind of crap that Jade Raymond got.

So ask yourself this -- can you really blame some female industry members for wanting to avoid the spotlight? Yes, it's not outright denail of the opportunity to speak at an event. But it's not a case of it "simply not happening" either...

Kaitlyn Kaid
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@Harry Fields

Living in "estrogen land" is a LOT different than living in "testosterone land". In estrogen land, we are encouraged to express ourselves as we are in a safe place to do so (no one is going to heckle us and tell us to "go make a sandwich!"). In testosterone land however, we are taught quite the opposite: sit down, shut up, men are talking. Now, rarely is it quite that explicit, but it is a death by a thousand cuts... eventually we internalize that our opinions are not welcome in testosterone land and it is just easier for everyone if we keep them to ourselves. Think of how pressured and silenced you would feel in a Women's Lit class or a feminist movie fest... that is how we deal with 90% of our work days.

and zero tolerance polices are, well, rather ineffective at best and an utter joke at worst. I've worked places with such policies (both in and outside of the game industry), and whenever we have one of those "Draw something on this big sheet of paper" events *someone* will eventually put a huge pair of boobs, or a comical rendition of male anatomy, or something equally crass... usually over about 1/4th of the sheet. I've yet to hear of anyone getting so much as a slap on the wrist, let alone any real action.

Simone Tanzi
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Oh not at all. And I'm not blaming them.
But neither I am blaming the summit hosts if they fail to find a woman willing to get in that spotlight.
Why are you?

Rob Wright
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I'm not blaming the conference hosts. I think I've stated clearly that I'm blaming the vocal minority of sexist trolls for making gaming/the gaming industry an uncomfortable and unwelcome place for women, which makes them reluctant to participate in the hobby/profession, especially when it requires them to take a public role and make themselves an open target for said trolls.

And I guess indirectly i'm also blaming the folks that, while not directly insulting or abusing women in gaming, take the bullsh*t approach of ingoring the problem or telling women to "step up and shut up" like that absurd vide Mr. Dias posted below. (mind you, Simone, I'm not including you in that group).

Simone Tanzi
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I'm ok with that but still... that quickly turns in a pretty sterile conversation.
I mean ... unless we have to go out and actually have to express why sexist trolls are bad (something that I hope is quite obvious and self-explainatory)

I still believe the only way to see more women taking places of relevance in the gaming industry is for some of them to grow a thick skin and expose themselves and take all the crap that's going to fly their way until women in gaming are so taken for granted that denying their place will not incite rage anymore but just disbelieve and derision for the troll.

Harry Fields
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@Kaitlyn,

But if you internalize you opinions and keep them to yourself in testosterone land, are you not doing yourself, and the industry at large a huge disservice? I don't mean that in a disrespectful tone at all. But to sit there and suffer that death of a thousand cuts... I mean, I don't have all the answers, and this is somewhat deviating from the topic of the post, but how do you begin to fix these problems you see if you don't let your view be known? If you don't tell the clowns that you're not going to tolerate being treated with disrespect. They don't have to like you, but they do have to treat you professionally inasmuch as their actions don't create a hostile work environment... it's the law!.

As a male, I'm obviously going to see it from a different perspective. But I know a lot of guys, especially fellow "fossils", are open-minded, professional and like to hear other's opinions, regardless of what their anatomy is. And personally speaking, I wouldn't mind auditing some women's lit classes or attending a feminist movie fest. At least for me, subjecting myself to experiences out of my comfort zone is educational at the very least, and sometimes it challenges me to re-evaluate a belief or idea. Inspiration can come from the most alien of sources.

Rob Wright
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Simone, I see what you're saying but....it's 2013!!! Shouldn't we already be at the point? Why should women have to keep taking all this crap? Would we say the same thing about other minorities? Would we honestly tell an aspiring black developer subjected to racist comments to simply toughen up and grow a thicker skin?

Here's a good exercise for everyone. Go and watch the YouTube video that Mr. Dias posted and replace women with literally any other minority. And then ask yourself if it's a reasonable approach to, for example, tell black people that if they want to be portrayed fairly in movies rather than be relegated to racist or stereotyped caricatures, then go make your own movies but don't ask white people to portray blacks fairly because, duh, they're white.

Simone Tanzi
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Well, to tell you the truth, based on my personal knowledge, the gamer girls I know and my female colleagues I would say yes, we are already at the point.
Then again sometimes some kind of sexist horror story emerges and what I see around me looks more like a happy coincidence.
I really feel like I live in a different world sometimes as the most unappropriated reaction to gamer girls I ever heard in person was something like "WOW, you are a girl and you play videogames?" in the same tone that someone would say "WOW, Are you a talking squirrel?"
and even then, even without me stepping in and defending that girl everyone in the world start staring that guy like he is wearing pelts and just came out of his cave.
So, if you ask me about my personal experience, we may be already there...
I have seen the mr. Dias video but ... is a youtube video...
I mean .. I can point you to videos on youtube where people carefully describe how we are all ruled by grey aliens.
And I don't think we have to imagine how the video would have been with racial minorities instead of women ... I'm pretty sure you can find it if you search deep enough.

Rob Wright
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Simone, I wish I lived in your world and shared your optimism.

Per the YouTube video, I think you are missing the point, which is the opinion expressed by Mr. Maddox is hardly a fringe opinion in gaming (unlike the belief that we are ruled by grey aliens). And the clip has 156,000 views.

And second, the purpose of the exercise wasn't to show that there are vile racist things videos on the Internet. The purpose was to show that Maddox would be shunned in the gaming world in he had said the same things about, for example, black people in gaming. In other words, we have a much higher tolerance of sexist views like the ones expressed in the video. I highly doubt Mr. Dias would have posted the same video on this discussion if the perspective was "Black people need to make their own games if they're sick and tired of dealing with racist or negative portrayals, because it's not the job of white developers." In the real world, don't we call that racism?

Chris Dias
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"Go and watch the YouTube video that Mr. Dias posted and replace women with literally any other minority."

That's pretty funny, especially when you consider than women aren't minorities in the world, or in North America. Women outnumber men, which shouldn't be a surprise because they tend to live longer. Even if that weren't the case it'd still be roughly 50-50.

Rob Wright
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Yes, Chris, it's all about numbers. Duh. It's got nothing to do with authority and power structure.

Educate yourself. Please, I'm begging you. And start with answering this: who obtained the right to vote in America first? Black men (who were once deemed 3/5s of a white person by the U.S. Constitution) or women?

You get extra credit if you can tell many how many years separated the two decisions.

Chris Dias
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Authority and power structure IS all about numbers. Unless you're saying men are just naturally more authoritative, powerful & organize better than women.

Rob Wright
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OMG, you cannot be serious.

Ever heard of South Africa? While you're looking up the answer to that voting question -- still waiting for the answer, BTW -- do me another favor and look up the definition/history of apartheid.

For the record, it pronounced "apart-TIDE." Like the laundry detergent.

Chris Dias
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I am serious. I'm not doing you any damn favors, how about you answer MY question instead of trying to derail me.

Harry Fields
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"Authority and power structure IS all about numbers. Unless you're saying men are just naturally more authoritative, powerful & organize better than women."

Tell that to someone like Marissa Meyer.

Rob Wright
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Sir, the favors aren't for me. And if you're getting "derailed" by historical facts, well, then I weep for the future.

What was your question, BTW? I don't think you clearly stated it.

Chris Dias
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Do you think men are naturally more authoritative, powerful & organize better than women? If not, then why would they need any special treatment or a helping hand just for being female?

Kaitlyn Kaid
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@Harry

See here's the thing with a death by a thousand cuts... not one of them is all that serious. It's stuff like "Hey, there's the new girl" when you've been there three years, it's not directly offensive, but when you've been at a company longer than your fellows who have LONG since shredded the "new guy" label... HR isn't going to act on things like that as individually it is absurdly minor (and I agree), however day after day, year after year, that kind of othering adds up to a feeling of being a stranger in someone elses treehouse.

Sorry, I think you misunderstood my women's lit analogy. I'm not talking about just taking the course and learning, I'm talking about standing up in class and telling people that your opinion is right and they are wrong. Would you really feel welcomed and empowered saying something like "As a man, I feel that this author meant X because reasons Y"? (also think about what doing that regularly will do to your grade if the professor disagrees).

That is basically what we hear when people tell us that we need to stand up and speak our minds in an absurdly male dominated space. It's not a matter of "will they listen", but "will I put my carrier on the line and is it really worth that?". Depressingly, 9 times out of 10, the odds of any actual action being taken are so low that it's simply not worth the risk.

Rob Wright
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1. No
2. Because men historically have wielded more power and authority and, as a whole, have sought to protect that power at the expense of the opposite sex, i.e., the disproportionately small number of female members in Congress, women traditionally receiving lower pay for the same jobs as men, not having the right to vote until 50 years after black men were given the right to vote (See, I just gave you the answer! Now go look up Apartheid) etc. etc.

If you need more history lessons, please pursue them on your own. I could spend all day trying to apply a patch to your ignorance of gender roles, sexual and patriarchy, but I have a feeling none of it will do any good.

Chris Dias
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"Because men historically have wielded more power and authority and, as a whole, have sought to protect that power at the expense of the opposite sex."

This goes back much farther than congress or black slavery in america. Answer me this; how did they get that power over women in the first place & why have they sought it? Are men just naturally more interested in having power & authority than women?

Chris Dias
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This is everything you need to know about diversity in videogames:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MpJGkG1g-Lk

Rob Wright
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"What are you waiting for? What's your excuse? Do you hate money? Do you not want to make millions of dollars?"

Yes, that's it. Women hate money. It's the only explanation, right? I mean, it's not like we expect other male dominated art professions like TV, film and literature to fairly and accurately portray women instead of making it incumbent of females themselves to dispel the negative sterotypes. How can we expect content with strong, positive female characters if they're not being created by women, right?

How incredibly fucking myopic.

Chris Dias
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It's a shame wealthy women don't exist, if they did then there might be some funding for content with strong, positive female characters instead of relying on men to do all the work for them...

Rob Wright
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Wow...you're a gem, Chris. Keep up the good work.

Simone, this is why the gaming industry is such an uncomfortable and unwelcome placed for women: the deep undercurrent of resentment toward females from people like Mr. Dias. They try to masquerade that resement as some sort of compaign for meritocracy -- women need to stop complaining and asking for special treatment and just make it happen -- when in fact they're really threatened that more women in game development will disrupt the status quo and take the fun out of "their" games.

Chris Dias
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Women DO need to stop complaining and asking for special treatment and just make it happen.

Katy Smith
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It's a shame wealthy women don't exist, if they did then there might be some funding for content with strong, positive female characters instead of relying on men to do all the work for them...

0_0

It's a shame wealthy African Americans don't exist, if they did then there might be some funding for content with strong, positive black characters instead of relying on white men to do all the work for them...

It's a shame wealthy LGBT people don't exist, if they did then there might be some funding for content with strong, positive LGBT characters instead of relying on straight / cis people to do all the work for them...

It's a shame wealthy Jewish people don't exist, if they did then there might be some funding for content with strong, positive Jewish characters instead of relying on Christians to do all the work for them...

It's a shame wealthy men don't exist, if they did then there might be some funding for content with strong, positive male characters instead of relying on women to do all the work for them...

Sounds terrible no matter how you say it...

Chris Dias
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It's a shame sarcasm doesn't exist.

Kaitlyn Kaid
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when sarcasm and satire are used by those in the socially stronger position, it will always come off as bullying.

(and yes, a 9:1 overall ratio (and far higher in management) makes men the socially stronger ones in the industry)

Chris Dias
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I didn't mean "in the industry" I meant entirely.

Harry Fields
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And yet, Oprah Winfrey could have you squashed like an insect... and she's a woman *and* a minority... if you want to go out of the industry there. And while we're out there, I hope you're preparing yourself emotionally for the first woman president, which according to many, is "the most powerful person in the free world".

Chris Dias
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You missed my point entirely, I was being sarcastic. (It's a shame sarcasm doesn't exist.) Rich women like Oprah Winfrey are the ones to speak to about this, not lecture the men in power about how they should change to accommodate them.

Joshua Wilson
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I do think that diversity, fighting against discrimination, creating an equal opportunity environment, etc, is everyone's responsibility.

But, unless I'm not understanding this correctly, women were allowed to participate, choose not to, and instead of talking to them and telling them to have more confidence in what they could contribute you blame the organizer for not giving them special treatment?

Most people don't want special treatment, either positive or negative, they just want to be treated as an equal and given the same opportunities as everyone else.

The issue here seems to be that a group of people think they, or their opinions/knowledge is not as welcome/needed. The solution is to tell them that is NOT the case, make sure they believe it, and if someone acts contrary, attempts to harass or block, make sure that person is punished.

Giving someone special treatment, especially when they're not asking for it, can just make them feel weak and less confident and can foster resentment from others who do not receive that treatment. Which just makes the whole situation more divisive.

Chris Dias
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Or even worse, adding quotas.

Bob Johnson
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No offense but when I think of people in gaming I'd like to hear from,... all the names are names of guys. Maybe ...that and the speaker list at the conference aren't a coincidence.

Patrick Miller
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No, it's not a coincidence.

1: It's because the industry has been a pretty unwelcoming place for women to work practically since it BECAME an industry. Which means less women participate, and stick around enough to do/make something that "you would like to hear from". The industry is approximately 10% female at the moment, which means that even if we _could_ assume that men and women have the same career opportunities in the industry, the list of "people you'd like to hear from" is going to be 90% male.

2: Great talks at conferences are huge for spreading someone's reputation for good work. The list of "people in gaming you'd like to hear from" is informed in large part by those people's exposure, and the entire problem is that women devs aren't getting said exposure by not being invited to these conferences.

3: We as an industry have so far established that we're mostly guys making games that appeal to other guys...and not so great at doing anything else. So it's no surprise that you're only interested in games men are making, but it's certainly an issue that holds video games back from growing (both as an industry and as a medium).

Bob Johnson
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@Patrick

I don't think it began as an unwelcoming place for women. There are many studios that started from nothing and all of them (at least the ones I'm thinking of) were started by guys afaik.

And of course the no coincidence part is because all the guys I want to hear from just happen to the great designers out there.

2. Good point. But the list of people I want to hear from is mostly based on the games I have enjoyed the most. And to be fair, the list of guys in gaming I don't want to hear from is 10x as long as the list of women. Actually no women are on that list.

3. I disagree. I think Sims has a big female audience. Created by a guy. And I think there is always room for games for guys. And if anyone knew of a mythical AAA western game that appeals to women then you can bet top dollar that game would be made. These companies want to make money.

Elisabeth Beinke-Schwartz
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You can't think of a single woman in gaming you'd like to hear from? There are a lot of great women even at high level positions doing interesting things that I'd love to hear from.

Alejandro Rodriguez
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I see this ~50% of game players being women number get thrown around a lot.

What then, is the percentage of women in development? Isn't that really what this post is about? Speaker/panel/guest slots? Should that be representative of the industry? Or is there an expectation that women should be sought specifically because they make up a smaller portion of the developer landscape?

I guess in my head that crosses the line from 'level playing field' into 'preferential treatment', which has yet to be proven to yield positive results.

Seeing things like, 'fewer women than ideal', and 'far cry from a diverse lineup' lends itself toward an expectation that is never actually clarified. Is the idea just that there needs to be 'more' until there is 'enough'?

It all seems very hand-wavy.

Patrick Miller
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Whenever we did the Game Developer Magazine salary survey, women were about 10%-11% of the industry. Which means that adding three women to the roster is actually *better* than the industry demographics.

Having an entertainment business be 90% male is a problem; it builds institutions that, despite the best of intentions, are often unwelcoming towards women, _and_ it makes it harder for us as an industry and a medium to grow (both in consumer size and in the complexity/maturity of the games we make). One of the ways we can make the industry more welcoming is to make sure we don't overlook the contributions that the 10% make to the industry.

Dane MacMahon
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Quotas are never good. Positions should never be decided by gender or race, and it goes both ways. We're slowly changing the culture of the game development office, it will take time, but the drive is obviously there. It was a massive boy's club, it will take some time and market forces (like phones) to change, but it's happening naturally. No reason to exclude people from speaking because of their gender.

Bob Jove
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Let me raise an even more interesting point. What if we focus on who the speaker is, their character and their PERSONAL dreams. If the speakers are determined by their knowledge of video games, the time they get to talk, and how interesting their topic may be are all very important issues. More women should play games- but I know too many who seem to be repelled by games- most play casual games(also if anybody mentions that freaking questionable ESA study from 2003 about the 43% percent of gamers are female should reexamine that article and the sources on it) Sigh I can't explain myself. Gender and race and religion and culture doesn't matter shit. What matters is WHO THEY ARE.

Chris Dias
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Damn straight.

Kaitlyn Kaid
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"Oh hey Kaitlyn, we are going to (typical guy place) to do (typical guy things), while talking about (typical guy stuff) and drink (typical guy drinks, which I actually like, but still), but you wouldn't really like that... Well, see you Monday!"

Eric Salmon
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@Bob: Where are the sources? All I can find is the Essential Fact Sheet, which makes no mention whatsoever of the method of gathering the data, or the statistical analysis applied. Is there an actual article somewhere?

Heliora Prime
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Why would you like to spend your time on typical guy stuff?
I wouldn't like to spend time on a list of typical girl stuff.
And if some do happen to like that, then say. Well, I actually love doing typical guy (or girl) stuff. I want in.

Are you expecting that they say, you're welcome and we'll turn half of the typical guy stuff into typical girl or typical neutral stuff so you feel more welcome?

I for one wouldn't want or expect that from a group who's just hanging out in their free time.

[User Banned]
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This user violated Gamasutra’s Comment Guidelines and has been banned.

C Sawyer
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Ultimately, it's just good business sense. I want to see a few people who vaguely resemble me in some way staring back at me when I look at a page of people who are supposed to represent this industry. I want to feel like I belong there. A lot of people do, even if it's just subconsciously. When I see a page without any diversity in it, that stands out to me and makes me wonder why it's not more representative of the general population. Is it because they didn't think about it? Did they only want people in their immediate social circle speaking? Is it one of those situations where I'm going to have to sit through stupid sexist or racist jokes? I'm not spending money to find out.

Michael Madden
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I'm interested to know how speakers are chosen, in academia we use a double blind method. Only the speakers proposal is seen, not their name, age gender, nor does the speaker get to know who reviewed their proposal. This seems like the best way to counteract any conscious or subconscious biasing happening in speaker lineup. In my discipline we end up having a fairly 50/50 split.


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