Hiring Female Developers: Where’s the Bottleneck?

Trying to hire? Want more female applicants? Triangular Pixels discusses how to appeal to female developers and diversify your studio…


2017 and 2018 have seen a concerted push towards inclusivity for women in the games industry and STEM in general: there’s Women In Games, specific support groups on social media and individual mentoring happening across the sector.


However, our Creative Director, Katie Goode,  was asked specifically – how can games employers appeal deliberately to women? In other words, why are companies still struggling to recruit and retain female staff members?


Without launching into a diatribe about glass ceilings, (whispers) GamerGate, and issues around getting young females into STEM subjects, we’ve had a long think about some practical issues that large or small companies could apply to their hiring policies and work cultures.


1. Is the project you’re working on going to appeal to women? Of course, women are as diverse and non-dualistic in personality as men (some of us like flowers, some of us like heavy metal) – but is the project inclusive? Can a female developer see herself buying into the brand of the game or project? This is important for your audience too – if women working in games are interested in your project, chances are your market reach will increase also.


2. How is the workplace environment? Having a range of interests and people within the studio culture can make all the difference, especially if the social life is good. Does your company have an equality and diversity policy and does it actively encourage female perspectives? Things that could help during the hiring process might include a tour of the studio (there’s nothing more off-putting than expecting to be the only female in the building!). Or, you could have open days prior to interviews taking place. It could also help to make sure that your job specifications aren’t too generic: tailor your specs to suit the project and your potential applicant, and include an ‘ask us’ section so that someone lacking in confidence can reach out and ask the relevant questions to boost their self-belief.


 3. Is there a mentoring scheme in place? Katie personally has experienced confidence knocks from male expectations that women ‘just aren’t that good or interested in games’. To shift this kind of attitude, we need to work on the culture around female gamers and 1:1 female mentoring can provide valuable advice. It’s important that a female developer doesn’t feel that she has to perform better than a male counterpart in order to be recognised for her achievements.


 4. Where is the studio based? Katie suggests that during her experience she spotted a significant lack of female coders and designers in central England and London. Is your studio in a location with good schools and safe areas – can a single person live there and feel confident? This could be partly due to developers wanting to start families in a viable economic area (although we shouldn’t assume that all women will want to start families). Without reducing women to being family-oriented, you’re more likely to get younger or less experienced developers working in London if family is of concern. So, are you accessible? How substantial is your maternity policy – important things to include might be the ability to work from home or to provide flexibility about school times, particularly during the dreaded crunch period.  This is perhaps something that could be included with opacity in interview practises and discussions.


 5. Are you doing as much outreach as you can?  It’s important to move beyond your usual social circles (and this includes online, too). Aside from targeting individual female developers, is your company working on a BAME, disability or mental health strategy? Taking an active approach both within and without your company will attract women and, again, make your projects more appealing to a diverse audience.


So, to (attempt to!)  conclude – we can’t solve the patriarchy, but each company or recruiter can take particular moves to help inclusivity in hiring. Most importantly, remember that each person, male, female, or non-binary,  is different – take the time to listen and adapt and hopefully we’ll get closer to opening up that bottleneck.