For the past two years, Facebook has worked to build a community of women within the gaming industry, and now it is formally launching its Women in Gaming initiative.
It starts, of course, with a Facebook page for the group to gather and tell each other stories and build meaningful connections with each other. The goal is to change the industry and make it more welcoming for women, said Aoife Brodigan, head of marketing for the Facebook Europe and Middle East team, in an interview with GamesBeat.
Facebook wants women to come together around key moments and events to share stories and empower each other to further the conversation around women’s issues. Brodigan noted that about half of gamers are women, but various reports show that about 23 percent of the work force in games is female. Women of color are even less represented. And women are even smaller slices of the engineering teams at game companies.
“We believe women are underrepresented here, and they have a very important role to play in the industry,” Brodigan said.
To start, the initiative consists of a destination website, or hub, that hosts information on the program and provides a platform for women to share their stories. Called #SheTalksGames, these stories can provide a forum to share challenges, opportunities and aspirations that will move the conversation and the industry forward.
“We heard a lot of back stories of how women got started, and that got us thinking on how to elevate these stories, Brodigan said. “We hope to encourage more women to join this industry. We want to look at how we can evolve and change this industry.”
The group will also form partnerships with industry associations like Women in Games Jobs to bring new research and perspective to the conversation. It will work with gaming companies to set up Lean In circles and support networks across the world. This resource brings people together to support and empower one another to create real change.
“We wanted to see how Facebook could get involved in a more meaningful way,” Brodigan said. “It’s part of our history at Facebook to broaden our role. We were looking to figure out how to roll this forward and promote diversity in the industry.”
And it will sponsor “Women in Gaming stories days,” where women are encouraged to share what it’s like to work in the industry today.
Facebook will also champion women in the industry at key gaming shows throughout the year, including at E3, Gamescom, and the European Women in Games Conference.
Sheryl Sandberg, the president of Facebook, shared her thoughts on the initiative in a video detailing the importance of women in the gaming industry, including game creation and the players themselves.
In the video, she said, “Gaming is one of the best examples of people connecting around their interests and women have a really important part to play in this industry. […] Yet gaming still doesn’t fully reflect the audiences it serves or the stories it tells. Women make up only 23% of the gaming workforce and women of color are even less represented. […] We need to use the full talents of the population to create titles and businesses that speak to everyone. And that’s what our Women in Gaming program is about. We want to build a global community for you to share your stories, your challenges, your hopes and your dreams.”
Facebook has recorded 20 stories already from women around the world.
“What pleases me is the overwhelmingly positive message coming through,” Brodigan said. “There are challenges, but there is an overwhelmingly positive sentiment that we can overcome them.”
As for dealing with hate, Brodigan said, “We are actively working on removing hate on our platforms as quickly as possible. There is no room for that. If you want to encourage more women in the industry and to stay in the industry, you have to create a safe space.”