International Women’s Day

As International Women’s Day approaches, we look at how the industry is becoming more open, where it could still improve, how diversity benefits the industry, and what Staramba is doing to encourage more women into its workforce.

Last year, the city council of Berlin declared 8 March, known around the world as International Women’s Day (IWD), would be a public holiday.

2019 marks 110 years since the idea of IWD was first mooted. That was by the Socialist Party of America, with the first IWD held just over two years later on 19 March 1911. Take-up of the concept was fragmented that year, with separate rallies in Denmark, Germany, Switzerland, and Austria. These were followed by a rally in Russia in 1913. Initially popular in eastern Europe and Russia, the day became more international from the mid-1970s when the United Nations got in on the celebration by designating 1975 as International Women’s Year, following in 1977 by backing an annual honouring of women’s rights.

Thoughtco(1) has an interesting, longer summary about IWD, written by Jone Johnson Lewis. The article’s author states that, “The purpose of International Women’s Day is to bring attention to the social, political, economic, and cultural issues that women face, and to advocate for the advance of women within all those areas. As the organizers of the celebration state, ‘Through purposeful collaboration, we can help women advance and unleash the limitless potential offered to economies the world over.’ The day is often also used to recognize women who’ve made significant contributions to the advancement of their gender.”

Our industry has seen moves over recent years towards improving the diversity of their workforces. In April, Staramba will be attending gamesweekberlin(2), where we will be visiting and displaying at Womenize!(3). The purpose of Womenize! is, according to its organisers, to be, “[…] an action program for females in Games and Tech, combining practical and theoretical program parts. The format is designed specifically for professionals and emerging talents in the fields of games, media and IT industry—including HR & culture managers, decision makers, institutions and multipliers.”

There are other moves, too, such as Berlin: Women in Tech, which looks at initiatives for female entrepreneurship and women in the digital, tech, and media industries within the city. Facebook groups such as ‘Women in Games’ offer networking solutions across the DACH region.

While this sounds good, there is still some way to go in making sure that all feel not only included, but welcome. In researching this article, we came across anecdotal evidence that suggests that attitudes beneath the surface had not shifted, even while lip service was being paid to current social mores.

Among the stories I heard:

  • “I knew a guy whose wife went into designing games. She always felt as if she had to be 30 per cent better than the men she worked with, or she would not be taken seriously. Eventually, she realised that she was correct.”
  • “I had a hard time during my university studies, beginning with professors who asked me to not take the front seat because ‘I am a girl and will not be able to understand’, and ending with a university administration that never invited girls to activities and events. After university, I also had to face the same sexism every day. I was really thinking to giving up on the idea of being the engineer but found the will to try something similar. This was software game development.”

When you look at the potential benefits of having a diverse workplace, it is surprising that there is any pushback on moving in this direction. The US-based National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) outlined in 2016 five benefits of having gender equality within a business. These included strengthening communication within an organization, fostering a positive work environment, the copacetic effect of taking care of employees, and reputation management. Perhaps the most-important of these within an industry that thrives on creativity would be the benefit coming from varied viewpoints on projects.

As NAWBO(4) wrote: “Having a rich and varied mixture of skills, talents and strengths makes for all kinds of otherwise unexplored mental territory, and men and women bring different things to the table. For example, women have an incredible way of improving workplace functionality by supporting, collaborating with, rewarding and inspiring coworkers, making for a stimulating and creative environment. While men can certainly be good team players too, they are often able to bring in a pragmatic element with strength in analyzing, influencing and delegating tasks within the workplace.”

It is vital for a Virtual Reality project to have as many differing opinions in order to provide a more-cohesive project that appeals to as wide an audience as possible. Projects solely designed by men will conclude with a product that is made only for men. By lacking women and making a product that may only appeal to half of the population, a company effectively closes itself off from 50 per cent of its potential sales.

At Staramba, we see how gender diversity benefits products and we work hard to make sure that we have representation at each stage of our production. Recently, we went looking for beta testers for MATERIA.ONE. Of those signing up to be considered for the role of beta tester, we found that only 1.2 per cent were female. That’s given us the task of trying to find a solution to this, which is why we are considering a number of options, including:

1) Making a drive towards handing out more keys for women so that they can take part in our VIP MATERIA.ONE Showcase.
2) Putting on an extra community raffle, solely for women.
3) Talking about MATERIA.ONE heavily in women-only gaming groups on Facebook.

We will communicate whatever we decide as soon as we have made a final decision, and look forward to your positive feedback.

We’ve also worked internally on representation in our workforce. When we first began, fewer than 10 per cent of our staff were female. Since then, it has more than doubled and continues to rise. Our overall goal is to have a staff of 30 per cent women over the next couple of years. Currently, 25 per cent of our staff are female, and we are happy to say that a quarter of them are in management positions.

L, one of our gameplay programmers, joined the company in 2017. She says that diversity should be standard. She adds of working at Staramba: “I have never faced inequality based on sex or nationality here. People on the same level of responsibility have the same rights to speak and bring up ideas. I don’t think of myself as a ‘female programmer’ anymore, just a programmer like all of my department colleagues. Our development team consists of Germans, foreigners, females, males young and older people, but we all are equal when we speak. This is the way a healthy working environment should look like.”

This brings us back to Womanize!. We are looking for senior and lead gameplay programmers, and we are particularly keen to find women programmers in order that we can continue to construct our gamechanging, VR world of MATERIA.ONE. If you are attending gamesweekberlin or womanize!, and are looking for a new challenge, why not come and see us? And if you’re not there, why not check out our jobs page.

Sources:
(1) Thoughtco.com (A Brief History of International Women’s Day)
(2) gamesweekberlin
(3) Womanize!
(4) NAWBO.org (Five Huge Benefits of Gender Equality in Your Business)

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