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EA exec: Game industry's problem isn't sexism, blaming men is a 'cop-out'

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There's a growing concern that sexism is the primary reason that the video game industry is male-dominated. The troubling issue was brought to light by the hashtag "#1reasonwhy", which suggested sexism is running rampant in the industry. As the story goes, it has served as the rallying call behind the ongoing debate. But is sexism really to blame for the lack of females in the industry?

In a surprising article for Forbes, Gabrielle Toledano, executive vice president and chief talent officer of Electronic Arts (and also a female), argued that blaming men for not creating an attractive work environment for women is "a cop-out."

"If we want more women to work in games, we have to recognize that the problem isn’t sexism," she said. So what are some of the other issues? While Toledano noted that sexism or harassment should not be taken lightly, she defended that it isn't "what's holding us back."

Gabrielle attributed the issue to three "dirty little secrets about women in video games" that need to be brought to light:

  1. Women play games – a lot of them.
  2. The video game industry wants to hire more women
  3. There aren’t enough to hire…yet.

Women need to start by recognizing that we are, in fact, gamers. Maybe you don’t want to admit it, but more often than not, women today are playing video games – whether it’s on our phones, online, on our Facebook accounts or on a console.   Who takes on their friends in SCRABBLE?  Have you played Rock Band on the Wii with your kids?  What about a round of Bejeweled on your phone? Nearly half of all gamers are female and yet I still continue to hear on a weekly basis that “the only people playing games are boys in their basements”. It’s just not true.  So if you like to play games, wouldn’t it be fun to make them?

Gabrielle went on to defend that the industry "needs and wants" more women, but "can't find enough of them to hire, especially in engineering."

If women don’t join this industry because they believe sexism will limit them, they’re missing out.  The sky is the limit when it comes to career opportunities for women (and men) in games. If we want the tide to turn and the ratio of men to women to really change then we need to start making women realize that fact.  From foundational employee benefits to playful and creative work spaces, the culture of video game design that I know embraces the values ofall our employees like nowhere else.

Sexism is an unfortunate reality of our times, but as women we must seek the power and ability in ourselves to change the dynamic. Cast aside the preconceptions, and look for the opportunities and places to make an impact. And I can tell you firsthand that in the video game industry women are not just welcome, we are necessary and we are equal.

We've heard conflicting arguments from other women already in the industry. Not long ago Airtight Games creative director Kim Swift posted a lenghty blog post in which she claimed sexism is a "common occurence" and also urged females interested in the industry to be visible, outspoken, strong, and smart.

I haven't met Gabrielle Toledano, but those do seem to be characteristics that she possesses. And now she's serving as executive vice president and chief talent officer at Electronic Arts, responsible for EA’s global staffing and resourcing. 

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Matt Liebl You can follow Senior News Editor Matt Liebl on Twitter @Matt_GZ. He likes games, sports, musicals, and his adorable dog, Wrigley. And his wife.
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