In honor of Women’s History Month, the Xbox team recently launched a new mentoring initiative to increase gender equity within the games business. In a blog post from Xbox-owned games studio Rare, Executive Producer Louise O’Connor noted that while over half the gaming leadership at Microsoft is made up of women, the company still has work to do, as just shy of 30% of the global Microsoft workforce identifies as female.
The Xbox mentorship program will partner aspiring talent with leaders across Microsoft’s range of studios in countries like the US, UK, France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Japan, Korea, and more. These leaders will provide 1:1 coaching sessions to help guide women in the industry on their career path.
The International Game Developers Association (IGDA) reported last year that 74% of workers in the games industry believe that the business lacks equal treatment and opportunity for people of all genders, races, and sexual orientations. At the same time, a number of big games studios and publishers have faced lawsuits or allegations of harassment/abuse. Clearly, the industry has much work to do, and Microsoft is aiming to be one of the leaders to effect positive change.
Aside from simply improving how games offer more diverse lead characters to play as (or better character creation tools), making sure that the workforce that’s creating video games is as diverse as the audience playing them is one of the best ways to ensure proper representation. Over the last few years, we’ve seen the US playerbase nearly reach gender parity, growing from 45% female in 2019 to 49% in 2021, according to Interpret’s New Media Measure®. And yet, on a global scale, roughly 30% of game developers identify as female. That gap needs to be closed. As O’Connor says, “By increasing diversity and representation in the people who make games, we can create new and unique gaming experiences for everyone.”
As the platform holders diversify their own workforce, it’s likely they’ll be able to attract a broader audience. At the moment, Interpret data shows that Nintendo Switch is the only console that has a female playerbase in the US on par (48%) with the overall gaming population, whereas Xbox gamers are 42% female and PlayStation gamers are 39% female.