Today is International Women’s Day. I would like to take this occasion to sound out one of the agendas I have in mind in my new role as Programme Leader of Salford University’s BSc in Computer and Video Games (CVG) programme – that is, to encourage more girls to apply for our CVG programme.
To my best understanding, our BSc in CVG programme has always been a very male-dominated course, ruled by testosterone, dare I say. In the current Level 6 cohort, there are only 4 female students amongst 34 students (slightly less than 12% female). In the Level 5 cohort, there is only 1 female student amongst 21 students (slightly less than 5% female). In the Level 4 cohort, there are again only 2 female students amongst 44 students (4.5% female). And majority of these girls in our programme take on an art-oriented (less technical, but critical) role in a team.
It is a known issue in the gaming industry that women are minority (even less women in managerial roles, as seen everywhere in society) IGDA has a special interest group – Women-in-games – that provides not only female peer support but also a space for discussing gender-related issues in games or gaming activities. However, I believe that to a fundamental change must start within educational institutions by getting more girls interested in gaming, and more importantly, creating games.
There are several ways we can pursue. For example, one can organise outreaching and aware-raising events or talks focusing on girls (in collaboration with ICT teachers in schools and organisations such as Manchester Girls Geeks). Universities, companies or organisations (BAFTA’s Dare to be Digital) can provide scholarships to encourage girls to take CVG courses. At the policy level, programming and CVG can be built into national curriculum (under discussion at the moment). While these approaches all sound grand, one can take a small action of discussing these issues with colleagues or students to instigate thoughts. I still recalled that the very first time when I mentioned of the issue of a lack of women in the gaming industry and IGDA’s Women-in-games SIG in my lecture, some of my male students considered that provocative and responded that women should not get any special treatment in the gaming industry (they thought that they were being meritocratic, despite they agreed that women are indeed minority in the industry). Fair enough. But meritocracy is a different matter from encouraging diversity and enlarging the talent pool in the gaming industry (besides, one can also question what it means to be meritocratic, what are the rules, standards etc.).
I’m aware that making a difference may not be easy, but I reckon it’s already a start by bearing this issue in mind. There. My way of celebrating International Women’s Day. Happy international women’s day!