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Thanks to Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s media tour for her new book, people are talking about women’s careers.Interesting thing is, Sandberg’s own industry, tech, is still one of the most sexist. One niche in particular is notorious: women programmers in the gaming industry.
In two weeks, the Game Developers Conference (GDC) 2013 will be held in San Francisco. The GDC is minefield of sexism for women developers. Last November, frustration with the GDC and with sexual harassment at work burst forth on Twitter with the hashtag #1ReasonWhy.
Kickstarter employee Luke Crane started it all by posing an innocent-enough question. “Why are there so few lady game creators?,” he tweeted.
He got an outpouring of responses, everything from “lots of ladies don’t make it past every small discouragement” to some startling stories of sexual harassment like this one:
Because conventions, where designers are celebrated, are unsafe places for me. Really. I’ve been groped. #1reasonwhy
— filamena (@filamena) November 26, 2012
Which got this reply:
— Renee Nejo (@Nay_HO) November 29, 2012
Or stories of disrespect like this one:
Because I’m still referred to as a “girl” gamer or developer, instead of a woman. At age 40. #1Reasonwhy
— Caryn Vainio (@Hellchick) November 27, 2012
Which got this reply:
@hellchick so should I be offended if you don’t refer to me as a gamer man, or game devs as the “MEN who develop games”? You’re ridiculous.
— Dave (@Politicraft) November 27, 2012
And just plain nastiness like this one:
If women are too sensitive and self-absorbed to deal with criticism it’s good they don’t design video games #1reasonwhy
— Bernard Chapin (@BernardChapin) November 28, 2012
The New York Times also obtained som appalling video of a female gamer in a tournament being sexually harassed by her own coach while she was competing.
But the open discussion did give way to some positive results, too, like the hashtag #1ReasonMentor, in which women game programmers offer to mentor others.
Leading up to GDC, the Electronic Arts’ Women in Gaming blog, is sharing positive stories from women working in the industry, too.
But it could take a lot more work before the gaming industry gets rid of its misogyny. The problem is systematic, points out male programmer Ian Schreiber in his #1ReasonWhy tweet: It’s a world in which “50% of world population is a ‘niche’ market, while 18-25 year old males (~5% population) are ‘core.’ “
That’s an industry bound to have trouble attracting more women.