The issue of diversity and the role of women in games and technology is something which has been much in the news over the last few weeks. From highs and lows of GDC, to the wider issue of women’s role in technology, it’s an issue which has been gaining momentum in the recent past.
So it was a surprise – a nice surprise – to see the issue being raised closer to home, within the Scottish parliament…
On Wednesday 27th of March, a question was asked in the Scottish parliament by Alison McInnes, the Liberal Democrat MP for North East Scotland, about diversity within the games industry, specifically about the engaging and encouraging a greater number of females into the industry.
Fiona Hyslop, the cabinet secretary for culture and external affairs replied to Ms McInnes and outlined the Scottish government’s approach to this issue. Here’s the transcript of the whole question, taken from official transcripts:
Computer Games Industry (Women)
Alison McInnes (North East Scotland) (LD): To ask the Scottish Government what action it is taking to encourage more women to enter the computer games industry. (S4O-01967)
The Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs (Fiona Hyslop): Computer games are a sub-sector of the creative industries—one of the seven growth sectors of our economic strategy. We are working with our partner organisations to review our approach to developing support for the creative industries sector. That work includes the development of a Skills Investment Plan, led by Skills Development Scotland.
We expect the skills investment plan to address the results of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts career pathways survey that was published in November 2012, which identified clear gender issues in the industry. The skills investment plan development process will also help to support and encourage new recruits and to develop skills in the sector.
Alison McInnes: I am interested to hear that update. Computer games technology is worth around £30 million to our economy. The expanding industry is young and dynamic and of course it has a strong presence in Dundee. However, only 18 per cent of the students who are studying games-related courses at Abertay university are female. Surely the full potential of the industry will be better realised if it can draw on a diverse workforce, so I urge the cabinet secretary to ask Scottish Enterprise, Skills Development Scotland and the universities to work together to develop that action plan.
Fiona Hyslop: I hope that I have given the member reassurance on that with my previous answer regarding the skills investment development process that is taking place. It is important that we encourage more young women into science—including computing science—and engineering at schools so that they are in a position to be encouraged to go into the games industry. Decisions about career courses at Abertay university will be made while young women are at school. Therefore, I hope that the work that Angela Constance, our Minister for Youth Employment, is taking forward with regard to CareerWISE and the science, technology, engineering and mathematics support that she is providing for young women, with the announcement of £250,000 to encourage girls to consider careers in science—including computing science—and engineering will be of assistance in that regard.
We look forward to engaging with the public sector organisations and the government to help them reach out to the next generation of creators, gamers and entrepreneurs…
We can only teach those who turn up. Right across the IT sector females are deciding not to apply. We can do what we can do, but we can’t easily access people who don’t even apply. The problem is more societal rather than simply sectoral.
The problem is John, that the games industry is no longer the irrelevant, isolated and insular little industry it used to be. It’s now a major component of the wider creative world. And none of us can deny that there are some serious issues with sexism and the treatment of women in games – as players as well as creators. As an industry we need to be aware of the stupid, immature and really offensive attitudes which exist within SOME areas of the games world. We can’t sort out the pointless arseholes online, who threaten, intimidate and revile anyone recognisably female until we, as an industry, have grown up and sorted things out at the top…
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