Electronic Arts executive vice president and chief talent officer Gabrielle Toledano has sounded off on sexism in the gaming industry. In an editorial at Forbes, Toledano said when it comes to sexism, there is a "big disconnect between perception and reality," noting it's not men who keep women out of the business.
"It’s easy to blame men for not creating an attractive work environment," Toledano said. "But I think that’s a cop-out. If we want more women to work in games, we have to recognize that the problem isn’t sexism."
Toledano said she does not take issues around sexism or harassment lightly. In fact, as the head of human resources at EA, she said she enforces a "very strict code of conduct" and leads regular employee training initiatives to ensure a safe environment for all.
Her biggest issue is that the game industry is perceived as more sexist than other male-dominated workplaces, when in fact this may not be the case. At the same time, she acknowledged EA employs far more men than women, and this is an "issue to fix."
"Rather than blame the majority just because they are the majority, I believe the solution starts with us: women," she said.
Toledano laid out three "dirty little secrets" about women in the game industry, the first of which is that many women play games. "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?"
The second "secret" Toledano spoke of is that the industry wants to hire more women. She said a company cannot be successful if a team "looks and acts and thinks the same." She said embracing a more diverse culture is not simply a "feel-good message," but rather it is a requirement to continue making successful games.
The third and final "secret" Toledano said is that there are not enough women to hire, especially in the engineering department, at least not yet. She said to change this, support is needed for educational institutions that encourage women to pursue STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) careers.
"The longevity of our industry and the infusion of new and diverse ideas that appeal to all consumers depend on getting more women into engineering, math, design, and other STEM-related disciplines," she said.
Toledano ended her note acknowledging sexism is a reality of the modern day workforce. However, this should not keep women from entering the industry, she said.
"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."