Some Steps Forward

By | Published on May 31, 2012

So, while most women in the dig­i­tal games indus­try (and more widely in sci­ence and tech­nol­ogy fields) agree that women and girls need to be exposed to STEM early, encour­aged as much as boys, and taught to show con­fi­dence in their abil­i­ties, there need to be some con­crete pro­grams that put all of this talk into action. In the last few weeks we’ve been hear­ing about some new ini­tia­tives that are designed to do just that. Here are a few:

The first comes to my atten­tion through an inter­view posted on ZDNet with Susan Buck, Lec­turer at U Penn in web­site design and devel­op­ment and devel­oper at In the inter­view Buck dis­cusses how she fought her way into the field through self-instruction and the real­iza­tion that she was not being given the same tools as the young men around her. Most recently, Buck co-founded the orga­ni­za­tion Web Start Women, an orga­ni­za­tion ded­i­cated to bring­ing women into web design, and

cul­ti­vat­ing open, sup­port­ive, intimidation-free envi­ron­ments where women and girls of all ages can learn, build and code together.

Another project is called Ada­Camp. This is another pro­gram cre­ated to bring women together to increase their par­tic­i­pa­tion in open tech­nol­ogy and cul­ture fields. Ada­Camp 2012 is being held in DC and is a part of a larger project called Ada Ini­tia­tive, and is

is a 150–200 per­son uncon­fer­ence in Wash­ing­ton, D.C. on July 10–11, 2012. It is co-located with Wiki­ma­nia 2012, the global con­fer­ence for Wikipedia and related Wiki projects. Wiki­ma­nia brings influ­en­tial and tal­ented peo­ple from around the world who are inter­ested in improv­ing the par­tic­i­pa­tion of women in Wikipedia and other open data projects, as shown by Wikimania’s selec­tion of Ada Ini­tia­tive co-founder Mary Gar­diner as a keynote speaker.

Finally, NSERC (National Sci­ences and Engi­neer­ing Research Coun­cil of Canada) has cre­ated a web­page ded­i­cated to Women in Sci­ence and Engi­neer­ing in order to pro­vide infor­ma­tion about poli­cies aimed at increas­ing the par­tic­i­pa­tion of women in these fields.

FiG Talks Continued…

By | Published on May 17, 2012

Here are the ple­narys. ENJOY!


Fat, Ugly or Slutty

Fat, Ugly or Slutty: Expos­ing Harass­ment in Online Gaming:


Ali­son Griffith’s talk

Fram­ing Fem­i­nism 101: Women’s Every­day, Everynight Lives


Erica Mein­ers’ talk

Do, Make, Try: Trans­for­ma­tive Fem­i­nist Work

More Talks from the FiG Workshop

By | Published on May 11, 2012

Here is Helen Kennedy’s talk: “Bit­ter Fruit: Why They Love to Hate Women in Games

Emma West­e­cott: “Game Devel­op­ment as Domes­tic Practice”

Celia Pearce: “Where the Girls Are: Redraw­ing the ‘Magic Circle’”

The Inaugural Feminists in Games Workshop

By | Published on May 10, 2012

Well, for those of you that made it last week­end, we had a great, pro­duc­tive, thought pro­vok­ing time. Some fun was had too, but really we got down to the nitty gritty of how we are going to make change, and we even came up with a few ideas of where and how to start. Over the course of the next few days I am going to post videos of the talks given at the work­shop, and I am also going to invite attendees/participants/observers to send me your impres­sions of the week­end to post.

In the mean­time, here is a video of the talk by Profs. Suzanne de Castell and Jen­nifer Jen­son. This was the FiG wel­come talk, and a primer about how we might bring a fem­i­nist per­spec­tive to our work in the games indus­try (and to our work in a broader sense). Enjoy! Take notes! (also, wear head­phones for the Q&A because it’s a lit­tle hard to hear).


Extra Credits’ Initiative on Hate Speech in the Gaming Community

By | Published on April 28, 2012

One of the most (unfor­tu­nately) ever-present issues in the gam­ing com­mu­nity, and all sorts of other com­mu­ni­ties for that mat­ter, is hate speech and misog­yny.  This week Extra Cred­its posted a call to arms. I can’t say it bet­ter than they can, so here it is.

Some Good Press

By | Published on April 12, 2012

An arti­cle from The Guardian tells us that the num­ber of grass­roots fem­i­nist groups in the UK have dou­bled in the last two years. Yay! These groups are bat­tling the objec­ti­fi­ca­tion of and dis­crim­i­na­tion against women, and appar­ently fill­ing their ranks with young men as well. Well done ladies and gentlemen.

The arti­cle in high­lights a few orga­ni­za­tions that led a protest against sell­ing pornog­ra­phy at eye-level, some of which ended in shop own­ers agree­ing to cover up the images on the mag­a­zines on display.

As 17-year-old Nina Mega from Edin­burgh put it: “Some­times you get the idea that the world is a pretty misog­y­nis­tic place and fem­i­nists are few and far between, but when you see all those like-minded peo­ple together – men and women – you just think: ‘Wow.’”

Nudey mag­a­zines aren’t the only things spurring a call for change in the UK. Also par­tic­u­larly upset­ting to young fem­i­nists is the debate over poten­tial com­pul­sory lessons on absti­nence (only for teenage girls of course) as well as the grow­ing anti-abortion move­ment and the num­ber of women los­ing their jobs (there are twice as many women expected to lose their jobs as men).

A note to Nina: The world is full of misog­yny, but it’s impor­tant that we keep orga­niz­ing and fight­ing, espe­cially as the going gets tough. Right on.

Posted in Feminism No Comments

Paper—All Fun and Games: Gender, Jokes and Play in Cyberspace

By | Published on March 27, 2012

All Fun and Games: Gen­der, Jokes and Play in Cyberspace

by Suzanne de Castell

Posted in Papers No Comments

Paper—Quality of Life in the Game Industry: Challenges and Best Practices

By | Published on

Qual­ity of Life in the Game Indus­try: Chal­lenges and Best Practices

by Inter­na­tional Game Devel­op­ers Association

Posted in Papers No Comments

Some interesting observations

By | Published on

I’ve been try­ing to avoid too much sar­casm when post­ing on this blog, but I have to admit I was tempted to title this post “Really?!” I’m includ­ing a sum­mary of two arti­cles that seem to be try­ing to advo­cate for more women in IT, but are just miss­ing the point about why.

These arti­cles came out at the begin­ning of the month, but they are a part of a trend that we keep see­ing in the media. The first arti­cle comes from Brier Dud­ley at The Seat­tle Times: Face­book mes­sage: Girls, too, can do com­put­ers. Okay. So far so good. Then the first line:

If video games can inspire boys to study com­puter sci­ence, per­haps Face­book can have the same effect on girls.

The arti­cle goes on to dis­cuss the fact that even though soft­ware com­pa­nies have been try­ing to recruit more women, there are fewer women study­ing com­puter sci­ence than in the 1980’s (was the inter­net even around then?). Face­book, how­ever is hop­ing to change that, or at least the women who work in devel­op­ment hope to inspire teenage girls who use the social net­work­ing site. Fair, but I still don’t under­stand the first sen­tence of the article.

The next arti­cle by Ellen Mess­mer at Net­work World reports on the Anita Borg Institute’s report that rec­om­mends that there be one viable female can­di­date for every IT job open­ing. Unfor­tu­nately, Mess­mer her­self seems uneasy with the idea, men­tion­ing more than once that this might seem like a “rad­i­cal idea to some,” and also makes the point that there aren’t that many female grad­u­ates com­ing out of com­puter sci­ence pro­grams. The report makes other rec­om­men­da­tions that should help to even out the play­ing field in the IT indus­try such as:

- Build a gender-balanced intern­ship pro­gram for tech­ni­cal positions.

- Use social net­works strate­gi­cally to increase the num­ber of female can­di­dates for tech­ni­cal positions.

- Revise job descrip­tions to reduce gen­der stereotypes.

- Insti­tute a blind resume screen­ing process to reduce the poten­tial for uncon­scious bias.

- Imple­ment dual-career sup­port mech­a­nisms when relo­ca­tion is involved.

- Hold exec­u­tives and man­agers account­able for reach­ing diver­sity goals and targets.

- Mea­sure and eval­u­ate your efforts to increase the rep­re­sen­ta­tion of women.

Both of these arti­cles present a very real prob­lem: there are far too few women study­ing com­puter sci­ence and even fewer in the IT indus­try. But shouldn’t we be ask­ing our­selves why? Per­haps we should address the real prob­lems that are keep­ing women out of the indus­try. Women don’t want to work in an envi­ron­ment where they are not heard or rep­re­sented or where they are harassed. Women don’t want to work in an indus­try where they do not receive the same oppor­tu­ni­ties or salaries as their male coun­ter­points. Don’t get me wrong, many women do work in these envi­ron­ments, and fight to receive the same treat­ment as men. Some women are thriv­ing. But it is hard to con­vince young women to will­ingly enter a misog­y­nist field that is dom­i­nated by men. So although there should be poli­cies in place to inter­view women for IT posi­tions, there should also be poli­cies that work to change the envi­ron­ment of the IT indus­try to allow for women to be as suc­cess­ful as men, include more female per­spec­tives and to for­bid gender-based hate speech and bullying.

How early should children start using computers?

By | Published on March 5, 2012

It’s no sur­prise. They should start as early as pos­si­ble. MIT’s Life­long Kinder­garten Group (the maker of Scratch) has part­nered with DevTech Research Group to make Scratch Jr., a pro­gram aimed to teach kids from preschool to Grade 2 how to cre­ate their own sto­ries and games using dig­i­tal media.

Mitch Resnick, direc­tor of the Life­long Kinder­garten group, spear­headed the cre­ation of Scratch. Hav­ing worked with a net­work of after­school pro­grams using dig­i­tal media, Resnick was struck by the lack of soft­ware that enabled kids to go beyond play­ing with other people’s media. There was noth­ing that encour­aged them to make their own inter­ac­tive sto­ries and games.

As there is more dis­cus­sion about what 21st cen­tury lit­er­acy is, Resnick equates teach­ing basic pro­gram­ming to teach­ing how to write. He adds:

What’s most impor­tant to me is that young chil­dren start to develop a rela­tion­ship with the com­puter where they feel they’re in con­trol,” Resnick said. “We don’t want kids to see the com­puter as some­thing where they just browse and click. We want them to see dig­i­tal tech­nolo­gies as some­thing they can use to express themselves.

Read more about the project here at Mind­Shift.

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