Gabrielle Toledano, Electronic Arts' chief talent officer, says sexism isn't what keeps women out of the games industry. "The video game industry is being painted as more sexist than other male-dominated workforces," she writes in a guest editorial on Forbes.com, "but the issue isn't just in video games. And it's not what's holding us back."
Toledano, whose duties include being EA's head of human resources, said it's "a cop out" to blame men for not making the work environment more attractive to women. "Nonetheless, there are still too few women working in my company, so it's clear there is an issue to fix."
She called hiring more women not some feel-good project for the sake of diversity, but something vital to making great games, as women play video games in numbers roughly equal to men. "Women know how to make games that appeal to women," she reasons.
But in placing the responsibility for boosting their presence in the games industry on women themselves, Toledano says that "women need to start by recognising that we are, in fact, gamers." And while she boasts that EA has twice the industry average of women in its workforce, "we can't find enough of them to hire, especially in engineering." To that, she called on the games industry, and the technology sector on the whole, to support educational institutions that aggressively encourage women to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, where they are traditionally underrepresented.
Sexism in the games industry gained a lot of traction as a topic in 2012, seen particularly in the #1reasonwhy Twitter campaign of late November, when women (and some men) in the games industry listed all the stereotypes, double standards, and outright harassment that they blamed for creating a workplace where women are marginalized or unwelcome at best. It was followed by #1reasontobe, listing some of the better reasons to stay with the industry, but #1reasonwhy definitely got the most attention.
But "if women don't join this industry because they believe sexism will limit them, they're missing out," Toledano argues.
Toledano was careful to preface her remarks by saying she does not dismiss issues of sexism or sexual harassment or take them lightly. Still, her argument seems to be that stereotypes about gender and gaming are cutting both ways, and needlessly limiting the industry on the whole.
But if it's on women not to assume that video game development is a sexist fratboy culture where the long hours are supplemented with the misery of harassment, I think it's on men, particularly gamers driving this argument, to cut the assumption that engineering or science fields are naturally unappealing to women, or that who gets represented in video games and how is some perk of being the dominant majority in the workforce.
The entire editorial can be read here. It's no secret this is a topic that gathers a lot of knee-jerk reactions. Please do yourself and your fellow readers a favour and read the whole thing before hauling off in the comments.