Antony Reed: We need diverse ideas in our industry, regardless of gender

Leigh Harris
Antony Reed: We need diverse ideas in our industry, regardless of gender

Following on from yesterday, we continue our talk with Antony Reed from the GDAA on the gender divide in the industry.

What do you make of the low number of females reported to be in the industry, only 8.7% according to the ABS release recently?

This is an issue which the industry is acknowledging. It's under hot debate in the industry right now.

My biggest concern is making it purely a gender issue. We're an industry which is driven by innovation and driven by creativity. Creativity comes from everywhere, so raising gender, race or sexuality should play no part in the hiring process.

I stress the word should, though.

We are consciously looking for people to bring new ideas into our industry. It's how we grow, it's how we evolve.

The issue I have with the conversation around it right now is that it's far broader than just our industry, and to address it will involve work being done outside of just our space.

We have to look at the primary, secondary and tertiary educations systems and the messages that are being conveyed there, and how we encourage and really demonstrate that IT is accessible and that it is very welcoming of all.

It's a controversial thing to say, but I think there's still that delineation within the school system where women should be doing this and men should be doing that. If you walk into an engineering course right now and look at the ratio of man vs woman, it makes no sense when you consider that the female students can be just as good if not better than any of their classmates.

So where is the disconnect? At some point, the industry isn't looking attractive, and it's in part because the headline which repeats is about how few women there are in games. That's become something of a deterrent on its own.

Much like our headline from the other day?

Yeah, exactly. If you've got a headline which says 'this industry has very few women in it', why, as a woman, would you look at it and think 'that's where I want to work'?

It's not exactly encouraging.

Sheri Graner Ray gave an impressive speech at GCAP last year on why diversity was important for companies (especially creative companies), but also gave some great ways the games industry could cast a wider net when seeking new employees. Do you have any ideas about how we could execute those kinds of things here in Australia and New Zealand?

Well, I put that talk into GCAP, because that diversity is really important. It's not something we can action right now as the industry is in flux, but the idea was always to get the kernel of that idea into peoples' heads now.

It was really important that we showed people that this is something that people have to think about.

But, you can't preach it. You just have to put the idea out there and ultimately it will grow from that.

The ABS somewhat fortified this: that the industry is still small and finding its feet again. It really hasn't been in a position where it can think that broadly. The industry has, for the last few years, been trying to save itself. I think once the industry stabilises, as we get into a place where we're more consistent and seeing assured growth, we'll start spending more time really think about where that creative talent is going to come from.

I think that initially, it'll probably be from similar creative sectors (so pulling people from the film, television and theatre industries) and then I think it'll expand out even more into non-traditional sectors from a much much more diverse group of people.

It's going to be a very slow evolution, because it requires us doing something which we haven't done before, which is always hard.

But that step will be taken. Because it has to. We need that talent. We need those ideas.

What do you make of the industry's response to the news?

I think the time will come when the industry will have to take a more proactive role in selling itself at the educational level. There is a disconnect somewhere in the system, and we have to work that out.

Many schools are using games in the curriculum, and there is a high level of engagement from the sutdents. it seems taht at a tertiary level there is a split and we have to ask why more women aren't pursuing engineering, game design or similar courses?

What is it about our sector that pushes them away? I don't think we adequately demonstrate the opportunity to create really unique and compelling experiences in our medium.

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Tags: interview , sexism , politics , GDAA , GCAP , Antony Reed , Game Developers' Association of Australia , Sheri Graner Ray , Australian Bureau of Statistics

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