The caveat to that headline is that the marked upturn in applications whilst represented across the country experiences a seismic upward trajectory in the the University of Skövde. The number of female applicants experienced an increase across the country (23,2% increase since 2014), however Skövde had the highest increase of all (53,7% compared to 4,5% for the others). 47,4% of all female first-hand applicants chose Skövde.
But why? I sought out Jenny Brusk, senior lecturer in game design and development at the university as well as one of the founders of DONNA, an organization with the primary mandate of helping attracting more women to the games industry.
What would you attribute to the positive figures?
Now that the admission process is done, we can see that the total number of game students that have been admitted to a game education at university level nation wide has increased by 41, and the number of female students has increased by 33. The total amount of female students that were admitted in 2014 was 14%, but has now increased to 20% for 2015, which is amazing. In Skövde, we had a raise from 18% in 2014 to 20% in 2015, particularly due to the program in Game Writing. The other educations increased their representation of female student from 12% 2014 to 16% 2015, so I would definitely say that the increase is reflected across the country.
In what way have your activities with DONNA and Diversi helped boost the figures?
I’d like to think that our activities with DONNA made a difference. We have actively reached out to prospective female students by presenting our programs and DONNA at role-play conventions, game and student expos, museums etc., that is, places and events that attract young people that are interested in games and associated cultures, such as cos-play, anime, art, fan art etc. We particularly choose schools, events, and expos where we assume many girls and women will attend.
We have had a steady increase of female students for the last two or three years, actually since we started DONNA, but this year, the high number of female applicants stood out.
In addition to that, I think that #1reasonwhy and #gamergate, in opposing ways contributed to highlight problems that women face in the game industry, forcing the industry to finally take a stand, loud and clear, against sexism, harassments, etc. The media coverage has been massive. In Sweden, Diversi has been very important in this regard, for example with the petition that received high attention in both the industry as well as in the media, and for speaking on behalf of all members representing the game industry, educations, and communities. There are several important projects and organizations, such as Sverok’s Respect All Compete, TjejHack, and Tekla, that all are part in making the game industry and technology in general more welcoming and attractive for girls.
What more can be done to further increase a more diverse representation?
I think there are many factors that are involved; the attitude towards games in society, which is influenced by for example how politicians and other opinion-makers talk about games and how media writes about games and the gaming culture; the representation, or lack thereof, of minority groups in games as well as how they are represented if so; role models, or lack thereof; how job positions are announced, it has been shown that for example men and women interpret the requirements differently – to generalize, men apply for a job even if they lack several of the requirements, while women don’t; etc.
I could go on and on and provide more specific examples, but the point is that we have to work broadly with the issue.