After following a long thread on the IGDA Women in Games Discussion List, I think I have gathered enough outrage to share this story. Jennifer Hepler, a writer for BioWare, was recently the target of a barrage of misogynist hate-speech that arose after a piece of a quote was taken out of context and circulated on some online forums. I have read many of the tweets, the so-called reasons for this attack, and the analyses of why gamers are so angry, and my head is still spinning. No one could convince me, however, that anything Hepler or BioWare could have done would have warranted the way that this woman was targeted for her gender and… weight? Really? (Apparently there was a picture of Hepler that accompanied the excerpt, and her appearance did not meet the high standards of her critics.)
Daniel Nye Griffiths summarized the situation in Forbes, including an analysis of why gamers are so angry with the situation. He links to another blog which compiled many of the tweets sent to Hepler before her account was disabled. I read many of them*sigh* and I agree with Griffiths’ statement:
These comments are profoundly vicious and obscene in their phrasing, and should not be read at work, or by anyone seeking to maintain much faith in the human race.
In response to all of this, BioWare has released a statement in support of Hepler and donated $1,000 to the anti-harassment volunteer organization Bullying Canada.
Jennifer definitely has some support, and she has mine as well. Solidarity.
David Batty at the Guardian wrote yesterday that the BBC director-general, Mark Thompson, conceded that there are not enough older females on screen at the BBC. Thompson also said that although there has been an increase in the number of older women employed at the BBC, this change has not been applied to the screen. He argued that in order to reverse this trend as well as the public perception that women about 55 are invisible on television, the BBC must
… develop and cherish its many outstanding female staff and ensure that they know age will not be a bar to their future employment at the corporation.
Develop‘s 2012 salary survey is out, with some not-so-surprising figures. The bottom line? The difference in salaries between male and female game developer executives in the UK is £3,000.
The staff at Develop published a summary of the survey here. They found the same trend globally between men and women, and went on to mention that this difference is due (in part) to a larger issue: the number of female games professionals overall. Only 6% of the surveyed game developers and 11% of those surveyed in the overall industry were women.
A third of the women surveyed were game designers (the largest group of women in one area), all aged 22–39, with an average of 3–5 years experience. They had a median salary of £26,944. Their male counterparts who had 2–3 years experience on average had a median salary of £31,935.
This article from the Boston Globe features an interview with Jennifer Chayes, the managing director of Microsoft Research New England.
Recently Chayes spoke at a conference aimed at strengthening STEM in Massachusetts. Chayes said that computer scientists create better work when they collaborate with individuals from different fields, and so part of their strategy is to reach out to people in “nontechnical occupations.” She also said that in order to better promote STEM to young people, it needs to be presented to students as a creative field, one that is welcoming to women:
Young women and minorities, particularly women, often turn away from science and technology. They have this image of some nerdy guy sitting at a computer, programming. I have never just sat at a computer and programmed. My work is always with other people. I love the human interaction. I love when another person’s thinking sparks something in my mind, and my thinking sparks something in others.
Chayes went on to discuss how she talks to young women about STEM:
I try to paint this picture for them. They could be creative in so many different ways if they enter the world of science and technology. Ideally, I try to reach girls who are 12 or 13, because we know that’s when we lose them. By the time they are 20, a lot of them have already made life choices that preclude this.
How do we achieve this? Don’t just focus on how many women are in technology, focus on creating more computer scientists. Create more interest in the field beginning in high school.
Mayer was quick to point out that when it comes to advanced placement exams, 200,000 students take the calculus test, but only 14,000 take the computer science one. That means 7% of the students who think they’re good at math take both the math exam and the computer science exam.
“If you talk to Google engineers, only 2% were exposed to computer science in high school,” added Mayer. “We really just need to get that number up. Imagine if we had 200,000 or 500,000 students graduating from high school every year who have taken computer science, as well as calculus.”
Read more here.
Getting girls into STEM education starts here.
And who says women are under represented in games studies?
This is an interesting article in Forbes that describes the attitude towards not only women gamers but about the mysogyny that is implicit within the games themselves. The author quotes a blog by Becky Chambers at The Mary Sue:
Women are harassed, trolled, and belittled, all for having the audacity to speak over a microphone or tell guildmates their real names. For some of us, it’s hurtful, but easy to ignore or avoid. For others, it’s a reason to stop playing altogether.
And continues to discuss her response to the scene from Star Wars: The Old Republic in which a slave is tortured by wearing a shock-collar and making her watch as the player’s Sith Warrior has sex with the widow of a man the player just killed.