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Barbara Lee of Kinetix discusses the issue of empowering girls in tech and the need for female leaders

The Head of Engineering at Kinetix is passionate about web3 and virtual worlds
Barbara Lee of Kinetix discusses the issue of empowering girls in tech and the need for female leaders
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Here at PocketGamer.biz we celebrate diversity of all kinds. Speaking to various inspiring women at our Pocket Gamer Connects events around the world, and being aware that there is still a real need to shout about the subject, we decided to focus on females for December. In this series of features we will interview various women working in gaming, as well as sharing other stories around the subject.

Barbara Lee is Head of Engineering at Kinetix and a lifelong gamer and an outspoken advocate for female empowerment.


PocketGamer.biz: Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your current role?

I am a passionate gamer who loves indie and platform games. I used to work as a Lead Developer in fintech services but decided to join Kinetix as a fan of 3D rendered worlds who’s also excited about the new opportunities offered by web3.
Currently, I manage a team of front end, back end, and 3D engineers to build our platform. I am working on growing our web3 services by implementing critical new features such as blockchain protocols that will allow minting animations as NFTs and deployment of our marketplace. I also support our integration with virtual worlds collaborating with cool game makers such as The Sandbox or Next Dancer.

What first attracted you to the gaming industry?

Working with creative minds is a thrilling adventure. The gaming industry is definitely not boring and I love that. We are not simply developing games but shaping culture for the next generations. I grew up playing games with my older brothers, one of whom became a 3D artist, so it felt like destiny to join the industry myself.

What effect do you think the culture within which you grew up has had an influence on your career path?

Gaming has been one of the cultures that greatly influenced me, as has animé and Japanese culture in general. I remember spending time in the Sailor Moon and Dragon Ball Z universes. At that time, it was a subculture, and only a few knew the codes linked to it. It grew my imagination. When joining high school I met other manga lovers, and it created a feeling of belonging when meeting with them to discuss the news in those exciting series

What challenges have you had to face during your career - thinking specifically about being a female in the industry?

When making my first career choices as a back end developer, the treatment of women in the games industry was definitely on my mind. So while I continued playing games a lot, it took me a while to join the industry. As a back end developer, I also wanted to make new project development my core expertise, which is why I started in retail and fintech, which were innovative industries driving the development of new products at the time.

However, I always kept an eye on exciting opportunities to join gaming. What made me change my mind was when I met with Kinetix. I decided to jump into gaming as I was enthusiastic about the ambition of Kinetix to leverage technology to create new services for game developers. This new mission is a mix of my interest in creative gaming projects and the development of robust new technologies.

What advice would you give to companies looking to improve equality within the workplace?

An inclusive workplace is great, but we have to start earlier. We should empower girls to pursue their passion for gaming and technology from childhood. My older brothers always invited me to pick up a joystick or controller, which played a major part in motivating me to pursue technical education and careers.

Employers can’t necessarily do this directly, but they can communicate it in their games and products, such as Cyberpunk 2077 which is designed to be more inclusive. We also see far more popular female video game streamers today, which is giving more girls the confidence to play games. There’s a long way to go and the improvements aren’t that visible yet, but I’m confident that we can empower more women to pursue studies in gaming and join the industry in future.

And what advice would you give to other women joining the industry?

Follow your own path. If you love gaming, treat it like any other industry and don’t be afraid. Look at opportunities, meet people, and you will find the perfect position for you. There are tons of clichés about working at tech companies, but not all of them will be present in all companies and you’ll only be able to form your own opinion once you open the door. You may well find tech and gaming can be very welcoming.

Who inspires you the most (not necessarily from within games)?

I don’t believe in role models. In my career I have been lucky to meet colleagues and mentors who pushed me to learn and grow my skills. In my managerial position I try to do the same, helping my team to develop their talents. Listening to feedback is a core value and I want to create a work environment that allows everyone to feel confident.

Since you entered the games industry, what is the biggest change you’ve seen and is this for better or worse?

I see more and more women joining tech. There are great initiatives such as Women in Web3 and I am convinced that they’re changing the perspective. In general, we see a boom in women’s entrepreneurship and I am excited to see more and more innovative companies create by female leaders.

If you could change one thing about the industry, what would it be and why?

Hypersexualization of game characters. It is a very widespread thing in the industry. It sexualizes women's bodies to make them appealing to men. It creates huge self-esteem issues for women playing with those characters as it showcases a false representation of women's bodies. I would love to see more genuine female characters being central to the storyline.

If you could only keep 3 games on your phone for the rest of time, which would you choose?

My favourites ones are:
Monument Valley
Among Us
Kingdom Rush