Once again it started with a Tweet from the loveable Bill Thompson, writing:
To explain, @doctoe (Jo Twist) is leaving Channel 4 in January to become CEO of UKIE, the Association for UK Interactive Entertainment. @sorrell (Mark Sorrell) is Head of Games at Screenpop.
Now we’ve got that out the way, let’s link to the post and tell the story of what happened next [warning post contains some language that some viewers may find, well, sweary]. Dear Men, Please Listen. Love, Man, wrote Mark aka @sorrell.
When you read it through make sure you also take time to view the comments.
[inserting some time for you to read and digest - this took me about ten minutes].
For those of you who do not have ten minutes to spare then here’s the digest digested:
Mark is angry at the way women are often treated online, ‘particularly in the game community and their lack of representation in the game industry’. He’d like to change this. He also thinks that for things to change men need to talk about it and agree that there this is a problem, and begin to think through how to change this behaviour.
This is an issue and area which often brings with it sweeping generalisations and polemic positions. It’s also incredibly complicated, far wider than the games industry. We could chew the cud as to the extent of the problem and look at other industries to see where the reverse occurs, however many of these discussions have been rehearsed and re-hashed elsewhere. Let’s keep focussed.
Timing is everything
Mark’s post is timely. It follows a piece written last week by Kira Cochrane looking at Why is British public life dominated by men?. There are also numerous other initiatives that have been growing within the tech industry over the last several years to encourage more women to work in technology and digital related jobs, and also to support those who already work in these industries.
For instance, the work Suw Charman-Anderson has done in establishing Ada Lovelace day, highlighting women who work in science & technology – which we took to OpenTech in 2009. Or She Says which focusses on women in advertising and creative businesses.
Gathering apace is also a movement to change England & Wales’ teaching of ICT from being mainly about using office software packages to programming and coding. Coding for Kids and the Young Rewired State, lead by Emma Mulqueeny, are aiming to ‘find and foster the young children and teenagers who are driven to teaching themselves how to code’.
Having worked in digital media for over ten years trying to encourage both men and women to fulfil their potential, my point is that this feels different. Dare I even say ‘zeitgeist-ie’ or the beginnings of a tipping point. We’re not there yet, and if you read Cochrane’s article you may even feel that in the wider sphere of British public life things are going backwards, but it’s good to try and change your corner of the world if you can.
But perhaps we’re further than we think? Last year I invited a male friend to the launch of Social Media Week. What surprised him was the number of women in the room (it was roughly 65:35 or 60:40 male:female if memory serves me correctly), particularly he said in comparison to the advertising industry, which was what he was used to and where you’d hardly see any women at a similar event.
Anyhow what happened next?
After reading Mark’s post I had a chat with him on Twitter (apologies if these don’t quite seem to be in the right order, Twitter has yet to make linking to entire conversations that easy):
What I like about Mark’s approach is that it is not only the premis that men need to begin to take responsibility for behaviour online, but that changing attitudes and behaviour to women online and in the games industry makes good business sense. He’s not the first to say this, and I remember having a conversation along similar lines with Tom Armitage back in 2006 after we’d been to the first Game City festival, but this point is the leverage, it’s the potential reason for change:
The more diverse your team, the more diverse your products, the more attitudes and angles will be considered and the better your product will be. The more money you will make. In a world of freemium, of mass-market gaming, of digging out those few whales that will bring money and fame to your game, you need to have as broad an appeal as possible. More diversity in your company will bring more diversity to your product. So form a more diverse team. And if the people just aren’t there for you to hire, make damn sure you’re pressuring everywhere you can to ensure that these people do exist in the future.