EA's Gabrielle Toledano: Blaming Sexism for a Lack of Women in the Games Industry is a Copout

January 21, 2013 -

In a recent article in Forbes (as reported by Gamasutra) Electronic Arts executive vice president and chief talent officer Gabrielle Toledano said that blaming sexism for a lack of women in the video game industry is a copout and unreasonable.

"If we want more women to work in games, we have to recognize that the problem isn’t sexism," says Toledano. "As an insider, I find this argument is misguided," she says. "It's easy to blame men for not creating an attractive work environment - but I think that’s a cop-out. If we want more women to work in games, we have to recognize that the problem isn't sexism."

While she notes that sexism is a serious problem and shouldn't be taken lightly, she says the real reason that there are not enough women working in the video games industry is because there simply aren't enough women to hire right now. Naturally this would lead one to believe that there aren't enough women pursuing a career in the field.

"Our industry needs and wants more women," she continues. "The only way to be successful in a creative industry like gaming is to stay on the cutting edge and innovate. You can't do that if your team all looks and acts and thinks the same. We'd love to hire more women but we can't find enough of them to hire, especially in engineering... If women don't join this industry because they believe sexism will limit them, they're missing out."

Toledano concludes her thoughts of the subject by saying that, while sexism is an unfortunate thing, women also need to put aside any preconceptions they have about the industry aside.

"I can tell you firsthand that in the video game industry women are not just welcome, we are necessary and we are equal," she says.

While Toledano paints a rosy picture of equality at EA, her thoughts on gender in the video games industry is at odds with those who took part in the #1ReasonWhy hashtag on Twitter last year. Some of those responders pointed out anecdotal evidence of gender bias, discrimination and harassment in the video games industry.

Source: Gamasutra


Comments

Re: EA's Gabrielle Toledano: Blaming Sexism for a Lack of ...

Regardless of whether you agree with her diagnosis of the problem or not, her suggestion that we encourage girls to take more STEM classes is a crucial step in correcting it.  Hell, nevermind just the game industry, we need more kids period, boys and girls, to be encouraged to go STEM, before we slide even further down the world's ranks.

Re: EA's Gabrielle Toledano: Blaming Sexism for a Lack of ...

Interesting how the product itself - and how most games are targeted to boys/men, the backlash against the new Tomb Raider, etc - didn't come up as a part of the problem.

Re: EA's Gabrielle Toledano: Blaming Sexism for a Lack of ...

It's not actual sexism that drives people away from the gaming industry, but the perception that it exists.  AKA they think that they'll be discriminated against so they don't bother, despite it not actually happening.

Sure there may be incidents of discrimination, but that's no different than any other workplace out in the world.

Re: EA's Gabrielle Toledano: Blaming Sexism for a Lack of ...

"she says the real reason that there are not enough women working in the video games industry is because there simply aren't enough women to hire right now."

And the reason for this would be what exactly? I think this is the copout excuse, not sexism. 

Recently I saw some number, I think related to comic books, that art school was split 50-50. Industry, notsomuch.

 

Re: EA's Gabrielle Toledano: Blaming Sexism for a Lack of ...

The author is pointing out a very clear relationship between the number of incoming applications and number of women working in the field. I've taken resumes for programming positions some time and completely agree with her premise that there simply are not an equal number of incoming application for women as their are men and the reasonable conclusion from this very highly measurable datum is that less women will be hired (since of course both sexes are equal in capability, it is statistically representative).

Now comparing videos games with other industries, tech based, non tech based, what I see is a very progressive place to work. I don't have much to measure this by than experience at three different studios, but this is also part of my point. There is no measure of this, so honestly it is a copout to blame sexism. To believe sexism is uniquely to blame here I think one would have to show a proportional increase in the number of sex based discrimination claims against the industry compared to other industries where the male/female divide doesn't exist, otherwise the claim is unfounded and equates to guessing.

Now, for someone who is interested in understanding why, as opposed to just blaming sexism and moving on, would then be inclined to ask why there are less applications from women. There are a lot of hypotheses that could explain this, including perceived sexism, possibly even sexism,  maybe in schools, at home, or maybe games don't interest women as much (could be a chicken and egg problem here too, mostly men means games mostly for men, which means women are not interested). Whatever the reason is it needs to be understood, simply picking something to blame is a waste of time.

Re: EA's Gabrielle Toledano: Blaming Sexism for a Lack of ...

There are a whole bunch of reasons, but many of them, runing from childhood on, circle back around to sexism.

The incoming application thing though I still feel is a bit of misdirection.  People are treating it like there is a static pool of people coming out of college, but what tends to happen is women are less likely to get hired or will get hired for lesser positions, thus they are more likely to leave the pool of applicants.   So even if the pool starts even (it does not, but even if it did) you would still see more women leaving then males resulting in a smaller and smaller pool of female applicants.

While it is true that industry get into the process a little late in people's lives (since childhood and school already skew things) the hiring and retention problems within the industry have a direct impact on the 'not enough applicants' problem.

Re: EA's Gabrielle Toledano: Blaming Sexism for a Lack of ...

Apparently originally there was >30% female, now way less, in the industry. And judging from #1reasonwhy, I'm suspecting sexism is in the end the reason why they don't even bother. If they're not treating the women equally, why would anyone want to go for that business?

Re: EA's Gabrielle Toledano: Blaming Sexism for a Lack of ...

*nod* hiring might be a problem, but if you have retention problems too...

I have been hearing the whole 'but we can't find women to hire' theory for years and it has always been kinda iffy.

A friend of mine did an interesting bit of digging a while ago where she looked into a case where a particular academic confrence was looking into why all of its presenters were, well, dumpy white guys.

The prevailing 'wisdom' was that there simply was not much interest or they were simply not getting many submissions from anything other then white men, but then they looked at the actual breakdown of race and gender within the field and it didn't match up.

So they tried changing the submission process, making it less 'who you knew' oriented and more 'anyone could submit if they wanted'.  Within a couple years the presenters actually started to match the demographics and the confrence actually had a good breakdown of race and gender.

So how does this apply to the industry? 'Dumpy white guy symdrom' is an old problem, people tend to hire people like themselves, which builds a system where many will feel that the odds are stacked enough that they will not even bother.  Fewer people go in if they get the feeling that there is not much oppurtunity for them... or at minimal women who start trying to get into the industry are less likely to get entry level possitions or break in, thus they end up not being part of the later hiring pool.

 

Re: EA's Gabrielle Toledano: Blaming Sexism for a Lack of ...

"Our industry needs and wants more women," she continues.

So do I!

 

Andrew Eisen

 
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