Passion, women and the games industry : influences on women’s participation in the Australian Digital Content Industry

Ruth Christie

Ruth Christie, Associate Professor, Course Coordinator – Bachelor of Games and Interactive Entertainment, Queensland University of Technology, Australia

My Thoughts

An interesting discussion on why the IT profession male dominated in Australia, with some good research into an otherwise well know, but not backed up much by research area.


Before the talk – Go for IT gURL! and Keepin’ it real! tattoos and even lipgloss, promoting Queensland University (QUT). Things from Queensland University:

Technology Takes You Anywhere – some great talks for girls, once 1500, but now properly limited, to around 900 – 9 or 10 year old girls.

Gidgits – Online girls club. Also Screen Goddess IT Calendar – – different poses from classic films. Interesting reactions to it. IT’s Million$Babes – – Great idea, questionable name. Need to make a million in a year.

Been doing intervention for women into IT since 1985 – been working on it for a long time. Run different programs all the time – “Go for IT gURL” (note the spelling). Other area of research is computer graphics. Brought those two together – been involved in the design of 2 graphics programs.

The number of women are just not there, even though there are a number teaching – a lot of role models in the academic environment.

Women in IT

Many strategies have been implemented, have they worked?? (Some research being done, hope to get the results soon).

Need for a theoretical framework. Previous theories:
– Essentialist perspective. Presumes significant, fixed differences between male and females – very sexist stereotypes. Don’t believe it.
– Social construction perspective. Focuses on IT as male domain.

Individual difference theory:
– Trauth doesn’t believe in the above 2, but instead says: “focuses on the similarity amongst men and women as individuals, and the variation among members of each gender group…”. IE: The individual has a major component in this.

Research being done to look at the reasons why there are a lower % of women in the “Digital Content Industry” (DCI). Strictly qualitative. Ruth keeps it more quantitative. Not a psychologist background however.

Similar influences are previous research: parenting responsibilities, stereotypes, long hours. However, some interesting variations also found.

Phase 1 Findings; identified a plethora of influences. A lot of them are standard influences (eg; rolemodels, long hours, family responsibilities, those things). Environment-Context is used to explain it (and it is things we all know, but research is a good idea to back it up finally). Cultural, ediated, and so forth.

Put on a scale of career scale – notably, not many 40 year olds in the industry of course.

Explaining the process using What, Where, How and Why (especially self-efficacy – 15 year olds if told “no” won’t do something, older women will try it) for each item. It is a local survey (unlike previous speaker), although could survey every women in industry nearby, which could be as low as 20 (yes, really, that bad!)

Access into the workplace was one major area. One example was getting a job with a company, when working at a cafeteria, the developers came in and discussed their jobs. Had the qualifications, but not the know how to get the job. Need awareness! QUT does put on a show at the end of the year. Other times need to get portfolios online.

Parental responsibilities is a problem – the industry doesn’t seem to support women having children. Issues not been addressed.


Q: For parental responsibility, subconsciously worked on children shows, then children games, then teenage games, then university.
Some of the men in industry are also growing up – seen their attitudes changed. Companies are growing up, but perhaps not making it visible enough to the women.

Q: Someone brought it up about “women and programming” – but this isn’t the case all over the world!
Yes. Someone has done some work researching their Asian students, and while there is some segregation the women do software men do engineering.
Q asker: Why is it a barrier in some countries and not others? Some obviously have women who work through pregnancy.

Q: Lots of optimism possible – architecture, doctors and so forth. 20 years ago were male dominated. Very professional, seen as well paid and good to do. Perhaps games are seen as flippant, and needs a professional body/union to make a huge difference to how it is perceived.
There is the BCS and Australian Computing Society and so forth for professional organisations. (However the ACS was an “old boys club” – there is a womens section but they had to fight). “With an accountant they are an accountant, doctor a doctor, what do we call an IT professional?”. Do the animations want the same title as a programmer in the game industry?

Crowd: 2 comments; doctors, the success is only entry level, highest jobs are still male dominated. Other thing is computer programming was female dominated to start with. So the question is really getting back into programming. There is certainly something we are getting wrong in the game industry.

Q: Is it published yet?
Not published yet, but presented at several places.

Q. If we change language we can change the perceptions, based on the research.
Definitely – we should be looking at all types of diversity, social inputs, socio-economic backgrounds, and so forth. Not gender, but diversity.
Q asker: We can have a different label (rather then “gender”) – it is important, but we can move on from it after this beginning. Perhaps be less “Hey hey hey” and just expect it.
Looking at implementation strategies, and even just bringing up gender brings up other demographic areas.

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