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Zynga India’s Divya Nair on gender equity in the mobile games space

Zynga recently held a tech meet-up for women in the gaming industry
Zynga India’s Divya Nair on gender equity in the mobile games space

Consumers worldwide have increasingly become concerned with social issues, including the role of women in the workplace. Women still remain a minority in the games space, and in some territories this disparity is even larger, for a variety of reasons.

However, companies all around the world are taking steps to address these issues. Many are working to foster a more equitable working environment and highlighting the roles of women in the sector, including mobile giant Zynga.

Zynga India recently held a tech meet-up for women in the country’s vibrant and growing gaming sector. We got the chance to speak to the lead producer of games at Zynga India, Divya Nair, to find out more about the event and the importance of gender equity within the mobile gaming industry. Can you tell us about your role and history with Zynga?

Nair: As a lead producer of games at Zynga, I bridge various functions in game development ranging from design, product, art, and development to building processes to bring creative products to life. Based in Bengaluru, I started as a product developer in 2010 and switched to production at Zynga India in 2015, despite having no prior experience in game production. I have since worked as a producer on titles such as the FarmVille franchise and other popular games and new IP initiatives.

From being one producer on a team of 40 people to being one of 16 other producers on
a team of more than 120 people, my role has evolved significantly over the years.

Each year at Zynga has allowed me to overcome new challenges while building various skills, such as designing effective roadmaps, optimising team workflows, and problem-solving to ensure our games meet the quality, delivery, and creative expectations we set out to achieve. The collaborative environment here has enabled me to give back by mentoring other game producers and women. Each interaction is always highly fulfilling. I’m continually amazed at the varied hardships and challenges women have faced to build a game career – from not being supported when they expressed interest to experiencing internal self-doubt. I have found that fruitful discussions about these topics have helped many of us break free of some of the myths and hardships that hold us back.

How does Zynga help bring women in the industry together?

Events such as the India Women in Tech Mixer allow me to connect with other women and gaming professionals to discuss how women can express their vision and ideas, take professional risks, and continue their professional growth. I’ve also had incredible women mentors from other Zynga Studios who were highly instrumental in my leadership growth and self growth. Zynga encourages an open environment where great ideas, regardless of who they come from, have a shot at making it into the game, and that’s what makes our teams awesome!

What brought about the tech meetup for women in India’s game industry, and what was its intent?

Women comprise a small percentage of the workforce in the Indian gaming industry. Zynga believes companies must create programs that help inspire women to pursue professional opportunities and careers in gaming. As a leader in the mobile gaming industry both globally and in the region, we focus heavily on creating an equal- opportunity environment that allows women to flourish and take on leadership positions within our organisation, and recruiting top-tier talent is crucial to our success. The Zynga India tech meetup we just held allowed us to interact with prospective employees and talent firsthand while enabling candidates to engage with our leaders in real-time.

Women comprise only a small percentage of India’s gaming workforce - what are the most significant barriers towards equity in the industry?

Like everywhere in the world, women face the challenge of combining career and personal commitments, such as having a family or raising children while working. In addition, gaming is still male-dominated, like in other regions, while women are traditionally steered to more traditional professions outside of tech and gaming. Women often lack awareness of opportunities in gaming in India as they assume they don’t have the necessary skills because they don’t identify as a gamer.

What can game makers in India and abroad do to address gender equity in the space?

To create a level playing field for all genders, we focus on creating a collaborative and supportive environment for our female employees. For instance, to enable learning opportunities at Zynga, we provide flexibility for our employees to move within teams and across functions. We also provide global support through our Women At Zynga (WAZ) employee resource group, which has over 600 members worldwide and provides learning, support, and networking functions. In addition, at Zynga India, we have a Child Care Benefit program and a Family support program, which provide various offerings to build a support system for our women employees. We also create a work culture where the team supports the flexibility required for women, including those returning from maternity leave. The Torch Leadership Labs we offer also focus on mentoring aspiring female employees for leadership roles at Zynga.

India has quickly become one of the largest markets for mobile gaming in the world -
why do you think that is?

India is a hotbed for mobile gaming, and that’s one reason it’s so exciting to develop games for this market. Affordable internet and faster smartphones with enhanced gaming capabilities have also fuelled the market, along with the growing popularity of digital payments. We know this market extremely well at Zynga India with nearly 20 people who have been here ten years or more, giving us many insights. So the foundation for strong growth has been created as we make more entertaining new games designed for players across this large, diverse, and expanding market.

What lessons would you like other companies to learn from Zynga's success in fostering equity among the workforce?

At Zynga, we aim to create a level playing field for gender-agnostic industry professionals. Events such as the Zynga India tech meetup help us develop meaningful dialogues with women seeking to enter and grow their careers in the gaming industry. We encourage other companies to do the same – to invest in meet-ups, career fairs, and other forums that allow meaningful and real-time opportunities to connect with talent as these employees are what make our company successful.

What can we expect next from Zynga India?

We plan to host more events to help us create more opportunities for women in the gaming community and foster diversity in gaming. Our upcoming events will be designed to bring talent and opportunities together – I’m looking forward to encouraging more people from different backgrounds to join the gaming industry!