International Women’s Day is here again! What a great opportunity to write a post and allow the members of the team to contribute and share their stories!

According to the IWD website ‘International Women's Day has been observed since in the early 1900's, a time of great expansion and turbulence in the industrialized world that saw booming population growth and the rise of radical ideologies.

Annually on 8 March, thousands of events are held throughout the world to inspire women and celebrate achievements. So make a difference, think globally and act locally!! Make every day International Women's Day. Do your bit to ensure that the future for girls is bright, equal, safe and rewarding.’

Each story below has been written by one of our team members. They represent our experiences and stories from the industry we are so passionate about. We hope you enjoy reading them. 

Raising expectations and smashing the glass ceiling!

Helen Routledge: Lead Instructional Designer and Head of Production

I couldn't agree more with this sentiment. I am and always have been an advocate for women in games and the sciences and I hope that the more we let young girls now about the options that are available for them to more progress we will see.

My personal passion to help others really started to grow when I was in my early 20s’ I was out working with a school in Dundee to design some mini games for an educational product. I was testing a game that encouraged the students to reflect on their life goals and I was working that day with a group of 4, 15 year old girls. The game asked them to think about their ideal job/goal in life. The girls discussed this in great excitement but when it came to telling me what they wanted to do, their answers absolutely astounded me. There were two career choices open to them 1) Prostitution or 2) Single Mother. Now I thought these girls were joking when I first heard this, but the more I listened the more serious I realised they were being. The girl who wanted to be a single mother had actually worked out a balance sheet for the number of kids she thought she needed to support the life style she wanted. Now regardless of how fanciful that might be, she had actually thought in detail about it and performed some serious plans.

I really should point out that at the time Dundee was the Single Mother capital of Europe and it was a serious cultural problem for the city. That may have changed now, but at the time, many students I worked with were from 4th generation unemployed or single parent families who knew how to exploit the system. This isn't a blog about benefits at all, that’s not the focus. The issue is these 15 year olds; despite having all the skills to work out a balance sheet didn't see any future for themselves after school.

I found this profoundly sad and started to wonder why and how this could happen?

   

 

 

Growing up I was surrounded by strong female role models! My mother for one, who told me I can be anything I want to me, I just need to work hard and apply myself. Wonder Women, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Zena Warrior Princess, even The Spice Girls, the list can go on and on. I did start to examine the female role models available at the time in the media and I didn't come up with very much. It seemed we had lost our strong females in the public eye.

So from that day on I decided to help as many young women as I can move beyond their often limited view of their potential and open their eyes to the possibilities that are out there.

I started an initiative where we took a group of 4 young girls from a local school on work experience every year and I mentored them to design a game. One group showed so much potential they were invited to present at the Women in Games Conference! Each girl left that week feeling better about themselves, more empowered and positive about their future career options than they did when they started.

Initiatives like this are desperately needed to give young girls the confidence that they can achieve anything they set out to achieve. For me, it's all about passion, knowing you can achieve more. 

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Many years on from that day in that Dundee High School I still marvel at how few women there are at the industry conferences I attend. I'm pretty sick of turning up and not seeing a single woman on the bill, or being the only women speaker myself. Personally I'm incredibly motivated to push myself as hard as I can and achieve as much as I can. I never think about the glass ceiling. To me it doesn't exist, I will just continue to prove my worth through my work and fight against anyone who tries to put me down.

However I know the road isn't a short one and I experience personal challenges such being asked to use my girlyness to help with client chemistry, or being patted on the head, patronised and talked over. But these are the challenges we need to overcome and through my work I know I can change this and I'm determined to continue encouraging more women into games!

Girl Power in a male dominated industry

Anna Bailey: Instructional Designer

Last week myself and 2 colleagues attended the latest games lab event in Birmingham. It was a great evening where we met lots of new and interesting people. After the event we were outside awaiting the arrival of the taxi when one of my colleagues mentioned just how few women there were at the event, I commented back that I just didn't notice any more. That got me to thinking, what does that say about me and the industry that I am in?

From the beginning of my venture into the games industry, as a female, I have always been a minority. On my games design course I was 1 of only 4 girls on a course made up of 60 people. When working as an intern in a small company I was the only woman in the company, whenever I have attended any events such as Eurogamer and Gamescom it has been full of guys. If I’m honest I don’t think I notice as much anymore as it doesn't bother me being in a room full of guys, I feel like it’s  a room full of people and I don’t find it even a bit intimidating. But should I just take this as the norm and the  industry standard or should we be doing something about it?

I decided to put a call out on twitter, to gauge people’s opinions and feelings on women in the games industry, I wanted to start a discussion. I got some interesting points, which started some interesting discussion on the subject. The first point was the need for more females in the industry, do we actually need more women or it is just fine the way it is? 

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To me this discussion raised a valid point, should the industry directly reflect the audience, in some cases does this depend on the type of game you are developing. Another point which I think is very true, is it that there still seems to be a huge misconception that it’s the majority males that play games when in fact it’s pretty much 50/50 now. I think its good to point out that men also face similar problems in other industries such as primary school teaching and psychology.

Another point that I wanted to try and tackle is the idea of setting targets to increase the number of women in the games industry. 

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I think that these are valid points, I for one, would not like to be employed soley because I am a woman. But another point is that studies have shown that people employ people who are like them. So do we need to step in to break this cycle allowoing people to consider other, female candidates.

The final point someone made is that although women are misrepresented in games, so are males as pointed out here. 

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There seems to be a complete distortion of how both sexes are portrayed in the majority of games. From the big hulking guys in Gears of war to the ridiculously clad Quiet in Metal Gear Solid V. This ultimately comes down to feeling well represented, if this was a minority of the characters in games then I think it would be less of an issue. But as it is the majority of games that have these unrealistic characters I feel as though this has to change.

I have to say that even just taking a brief look into this subject that I have already gained so much information and fresh insight. I personally feel that games are progressing forward and I hope to see lots of women being made aware that production of video games is a great career with so much to offer and for them to know that it is as open to them as any other industry out there. 

Don’t let other people put you down or belittle you

I haven’t been the industry that long and I have already been subject to some sexism. One of the ones that really stick in my mind was an occasion when we were having drinks with some people off my game design course. I had recently returned to university after studying for 2 years and completing a year in the games industry. We were having drink when one of the guys asked me across the table if I actually liked games. I was completely taken back by the comment, he then went onto say that I ‘didn't look like the typical person’ who would play games or be on the course. My immediate reaction was to exclaim that of course I play games! I then didn't really say much more on the subject due to my astonishment at the comment. Looking back now I wish I had called him out in front of everyone or at least tried to  question his thinking. I think part of my point is, don’t let anyone put you down or make you think that you are any less worthy. To me it doesn't matter if you've played all the games under the sun or just a few select games, what matter is that you have an opinion. 

It’s important to stay true to what you believe in

One important point to remember is to stay true to what you believe in. Keep your passion and use that to drive you forward. It’s also important to be uncompromising in what you believe in, if you feel as though something you are doing is compromising your values, then speak up. If you are unhappy with how you are being treated, then say something. Don’t deviate due to money or being pushed down a certain path else you will soon find that you will lose your passion or become unhappy in your job.

It’s important to have a female role-model

For me it’s been a huge help to have positive role models in my life. I have always had strong female people to look up to. In my personal life I have always looked up to my Mum who is a single mum and is the most amazing person. Growing up I always had positive female role models within the media in the age of girl power. I also watched a lot of Buffy the Vampire slayer and just loved that Buffy was stylish, clever and funny. I am really fortunate now that I even have a role model within my work place. Our own Helen Routledge has taught me a fair bit about how to handle yourself in the world of work and has given me quite a bit to think about after some of our little chats. In quite a few ways she is pretty inspiring to me. The point is here, that it doesn't matter who your role model is just pick one and strive to be as clever, confident or knowledgeable as they are. 

The benefits of a balanced work place and an interesting experiment in Second Life

Richard Smith: Managing Director

I've always believed in creating an equal work place and believe equality produces a better culture and ultimately better products for our clients. If you doubt this check out our Sci-fi themed “diversity and equality” project.  60% of the team at Totem are women; this hasn't happened as part of a plan to surround myself with female employees rather it’s happened as a result of hiring the best people for the job. The team dynamics work really well and we have some very interesting discussions in the office with all the different perspectives the team members bring.

Obviously as a man I don’t know what it’s like to be a woman in the real world but through the development of virtual worlds this has changed! So, and those of you who know me know I like to try things out, I decided to set up an account and enter Second Life as a female character to see what would happen. So I set up a female name and a female avatar and away I went. It was quite an eye opening experience, one that was very different to the experience with my male avatar. I found other people would approach me more easily and start chatting, which was nice, but also I was chatted up almost immediately and most worryingly I was patronised quite a bit.

What was interesting is that I am still me, the same person, I didn't alter my behaviour or personality yet everyone in the Second Life reacted differently to me.

International women’s day and equal opportunities for gamers!

Nicky Rhodes: 3D Graphics Artist and all round good egg 

I would like to introduce you to my view on playing games and the lack of decent main female

characters. Things have been changing in this industry for a while and for the better, just take a look at Tomb raider Reboot but for me who has finished Tomb raider a while ago now I want something new to play.

 However I have asked myself what other game characters do I enjoy playing?

I like characters that are a bit quirky but also kick ass I like playing Ratchet and Clank, Alice in wonderland,  I like playing dirt and driving games but I presume the character you drive is male by how the rest of the characters interact with you.

I really would like to be a female character driving a Monster truck and there are so many potential games out there for both women and men if they were given the option to select a character. It’s not hard to change the voice, the mesh and the texture of the character.

As a games artist I would love to create a female kick ass character like Tank girl, I would love a tank girl game all gritty and 90’s Punk.

Like Rockstar and GTA, braking boundaries for men and being able to be allowed to do what the hell they want, be it Shooting people or yoga.

 I would love to work on a game with a strong female character and for it to be multi-player to enable women to let their hair down and socialise on-line like guys do, because yes your right women like to do that too and to be able to go mental and I think Tank girl would be a good way to start.

At the end of the day aren't games meant to be a form of escape from reality and a useful form of learning things about yourself and other things?

International Equals day

The thing that annoys me about international woman’s day is the title; this in its self is segregation.

Generally speaking when men see the word international women’s day they visualise a WI meeting and that women are fighting for our rights again and why this article should concern them as it's a woman thing.

We are past the woman’s power to vote stage and have been for a long while.

Every so often its good to glimpse back into the past and see how mature things have got or getting.

I would prefer to call it international 'equals day’; this would suggest this article is aimed for anyone to read.

“No matter what anyone thinks or tells you, if you want to do a job then just do it. I work in a company that is mainly made up of men but have been welcomed and am not treated differently. If you are good at what you do it shouldn't matter who you are.” Keziah Bailey, Lead digital Artist Double Negative.

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