Women pry open door to video game industry's boys' club

Sun Jan 13, 2013 11:50am EST
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By Malathi Nayak

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - When video game developer Brenda Brathwaite Romero started her career in the 1980s, she could count the number of female developers in the industry on one hand.

Today, many "Women in Games" roundtables she attends are filled to capacity with new faces. The 46-year-old, sometimes referred to as the longest-serving woman in the video game arena, jokes that these days one can even encounter long lines for the ladies' room at the Game Developers Conference, one of the industry's largest gatherings.

"Over the years, greatly helped by the social and mobile boom, there have been many, many women coming into game development," Brathwaite Romero said.

With women comprising just over 1 in 10 in the video game workforce, the industry has a reputation for being among the most testosterone-fueled of the traditionally male-dominated technology sector. But thanks to the mobile revolution, industry executives say that's changing.

With smartphones going mainstream and delivering gaming to a new, broader population, publishers and developers are keen to tap an audience beyond young males. And, not surprisingly, as women have explored a growing range of mobile games on Facebook or other platforms, they have discovered the allure of working in the industry.

The number of women hired by game companies has tripled since 2009, according to recruiting firm VonChurch, based on over 350 placements it has made in digital gaming firms like CrowdStar and GREE.

In 1989, when veteran games designer Sheri Graner Ray started out, women made up less than 3 percent of the workforce. That's now up to 11 percent.

"In 20 years, it's not a lot of growth," said Graner Ray, who has worked at leading companies like Electronic Arts and Sony Online Entertainment. But she agrees that number will rise as more women assert themselves in the industry, educational programs take hold, and mobile games continue to flourish.   Continued...

Aditi Banga, an associate product manager at Pocket Gems, stands for a portrait at the company's headquarters in San Francisco, California December 19, 2012. REUTERS/Stephen Lam