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.
A trailblazer of our time within the gamin world is Marie Claire Isaaman, who has been at the helm of Women in Games for six years now, forging a path for women to find their space within a traditionally male-dominated industry.
PocketGamer.biz: Can you please introduce yourself, and your role in Women in Games?
I’m Marie-Claire Isaaman, the CEO of Women in Games. I joined the organisation in this role in 2016 and have had the pleasure of seeing our community, our programmes and our initiatives grow significantly.
What are the long-term goals of Women in Games, and how does your group approach these goals?
Women in Games’ work aligns with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) and is primarily focused on Goal 5: ‘Achieve Gender Equality & Empower all Girls and Women’. Our purpose is to advance a fair, equal and safe environment that empowers girls and women in games throughout the world. We want them to have full equity of opportunity, treatment and conditions to allow them to achieve their full potential.
We need to attract more women and girls into a career in games – and then support them through their journey, helping them to grow their careers, and providing safe spaces for them in the workplace and online.
We operate within 5 spaces of Action, which are:
In practice, this means we work across all these spaces to achieve our mission. For example, in the area of Community we are consistently growing our community of women and allies – we have over 1,000 Ambassadors in 70+ countries – who amplify our ideals and contribute to fulfilling our vision and mission. We have more than 50 Corporate and Education Ambassadors around the world who have signed our Memorandum of Co-Operation and align with our values, and we have a substantial network across social media of 55,000.
We host a series of events throughout the year – most of which are free to attend – and they serve various purposes from providing career and personal development advice, giving women the opportunity to meet with studios who are hiring, to providing inspiration via talks from those who have broken the glass ceiling to thrive in games and esports, along with Game Jams, our Awards and a 2 day annual Conference which brings together some of the most important women working in the sector today across all our spaces of action.
In addition, we increasingly engage with a variety of research projects, alone and in partnership with industry and academia, this provides us with tangible data and knowledge that informs our strategic thinking and shines a light on the multifaceted challenges to be overcome to achieve a fair playing field. A major piece of work includes the recent Women in Games Guide: Building A Fair Playing Field co-authored by myself and Sharon Tolaini Sage and myself (see below).
Women in Games has grown from a mentorship program into a larger community interest group – how has the organisation grown, and what hurdles have you overcome?
We have grown significantly over the past few years, and I would say that we are more than a community interest group – we are activists, and our global movement is gathering pace. We opened our first international Chapter this year with the launch of Women in Games Asia, and we have much interest from other territories looking to do the same in 2023 and beyond.
One of the biggest hurdles we face is that of funding. We are a not-for-profit, and we provide much of our initiatives free of charge to our community and partners. We are thankful to our sponsors without whom we couldn’t carry out our work. But there is so much more to be done; there’s so much we want to achieve. To that end, we have just launched a dedicated Donations campaign which we hope will help us to fund some of the ambitions we have going forward.
You recently published “Creating a Fair Playing Field” – what do you hope to achieve through the publication of this guide?
The Women in Games Guide is for all companies who operate in games, esports or any connected industries who really want to make a difference when it comes to gender equality and diversity. Women remain significantly under-represented in these sectors and the well-publicised controversies around dysfunctional working cultures continue.
The Guide addresses the wide scale issues of gender inequality and it highlights the role of leadership in achieving fairness. But most importantly, it provides inspiration and knowledge to those who are genuinely looking to galvanise action and change. It is free for any company or individual to download here, and is currently being translated into 10 languages. An audiobook will be released in the New Year, while we are also lining up a podcast series to further examines the issues raised in the Guide.
What do you think is the biggest barrier when it comes to gender equality in gaming, and how are you addressing it?
I think the lack of women in leadership roles in games is an issue. ‘You have to see it to be it’ may be something of a cliché, but it is very true when it comes to career choices and development. Young women and girls need to see that there is a future for them in games; that there are opportunities for them to become senior leaders.
At the same time, the reports of toxicity and harassment are deterring young women from considering a career in games. We need to ensure that there are safe spaces for all.
What does the future hold for your group, and are you seeing any positive changes in terms of female representation in the industry?
We are currently lining up our events schedule for 2023, but it will include our Annual Conference, our Awards and our career development and learning conferences, along with some new initiatives particularly aimed at entrepreneurial women who are looking for investment and business support.
The growth of our Corporate Ambassador programme is evidence that there is a genuine desire for change amongst studios and other games companies. Some don’t know where to start with their EDI programmes – or need support in some areas - which is why they are collaborating with Women in Games. But we need more to join us on our mission and to help us to make games a safe and supportive place for all women and girls.