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My Thoughts On #1ReasonWhy


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#1 Toothpix   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 810

Posted 06 December 2012 - 05:42 PM

If you don't know what topic I am talking about, it was a twitter topic this past week about sexism in the games industry, go check it out.

I realize that being sexist is wrong, and I believe it is, but I have always wondered why games have been traditionally developed mostly by men. I would think it stems from the fact that most programmers have always been men, and why? My theory is:

Back in the wee early days of computing, around WWII, there were two fields interested in programming: engineering and military. The reason behind my theory that the first programmers were men were because back in this era, sexism was either acceptable or people fell into these roles anyway, and all of the military officers and engineers were both only men. Then, programming came about, and you guessed it: male dominated industry. Eventually, as personal computing came about, men still were almost completely all programmers. Games stem almost completely from programming, and once again, it is dominated by men. There you have it. The reason you have sexism in the computer games industry. All solved right here on GDnet.

C dominates the world of linear procedural computing, which won't advance. The future lies in MASSIVE parallelism.


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#2 frob   Moderators   -  Reputation: 22710

Posted 06 December 2012 - 06:41 PM

Why is <field> dominated by men? It isn't just the games industry.

Almost every industry has it.

Construction always has been (and probably always will be) a male dominated field. Politics is male dominated. And when it comes to programming, mathematics related fields are male dominated.


Also, it varies by location and by time in history. Sometimes it flips.

Teaching and nursing are two fields that were once male dominated that became female dominated. In the US before the early 1900s nursing was a male-only field. Today it is 78% women. In the US during the 1800s teaching switched from male dominated to female dominated.


A few seconds on Google will show there have been significant studies about why women are less prevalent in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) professions. Your theory is interesting, but it doesn't look like it matches the research.

Check out my book, Game Development with Unity, aimed at beginners who want to build fun games fast.

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#3 swiftcoder   Senior Moderators   -  Reputation: 10364

Posted 06 December 2012 - 07:00 PM

In many ways, it is more interesting to approach the question of 'why' a gender imbalance exists in computer science (and related fields) by attempting to posit a solution to said gender imbalance.

Over the last few decades we have made great strides on a number of fronts, across the developed world. Sexual discrimination in the workplace is illegal, and employers are increasingly vigilant against such. Equal access to education has been a huge success - more women than men now both attend and graduate from university. And while there still exists a sizable salary gap between men and women, it has reduced over time, and it doesn't strike me as noticeably worse in STEM fields.

Yet engineering departments are still almost entirely male-dominated - clearly some vital spark is missing from the equation.

Is the subconscious reinforcement of traditional gender roles prevalent throughout primary and secondary education to blame for discouraging girls from pursuing math and science? Are many women intimidated by the thought of entering into a field where they will be outnumbered 20-to-1 by their male colleauges? Is there actually a culture of sexism in engineering fields, perpetuated by the male professors/colleagues who are unused to working with, or perhaps resentful of, female colleagues?

Tristam MacDonald - Software Engineer @Amazon - [swiftcoding]


#4 ApochPiQ   Moderators   -  Reputation: 16392

Posted 06 December 2012 - 07:24 PM

Interesting bit of history: programming was originally a very female-dominated field.


We can speculate all day but in the end the historical reasons are largely irrelevant IMHO. What's more interesting is, what's being done to address the problem? At what point will we consider the problem addressed?

#5 Toothpix   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 810

Posted 06 December 2012 - 07:31 PM

What's more interesting is, what's being done to address the problem? At what point will we consider the problem addressed?

The thing is, I don't see a solution other than for more women to just become interested in games and computers in general.

programming was originally a very female-dominated field.

Ada Byron and others, of course. These people were some of the greatest programmers ever, and I have utmost respect for them.

C dominates the world of linear procedural computing, which won't advance. The future lies in MASSIVE parallelism.


#6 ApochPiQ   Moderators   -  Reputation: 16392

Posted 06 December 2012 - 07:43 PM

Far beyond that. Programming computers was originally a largely manual task, in the early days. Most corporations and academic institutions had armies of women who shouldered that work.

#7 Amadeus H   Members   -  Reputation: 1180

Posted 07 December 2012 - 12:35 AM

Just an observation from my uni (graduated 2011), was that more than 50% of the students were, in fact, female. However, when it came to graduating that percentage was well below 20% female. I don't know if this was due to a focused recruitment drive among women going on at the time, but it's an interesting observation non-the-less. I remember far more women than boys being the top mathematic students in my pre-uni years, so the interest must at least be there.

#8 Buster2000   Members   -  Reputation: 1775

Posted 07 December 2012 - 03:03 AM

I don't really think this has anything to do with school or industry. It starts even earlier than this at childhood. Girls and boys get bought different toys and get introduced to different cartoons by their parents.

Also as aside when I graduated uni I did a games programming degree and none of the women on the degree went into games programming but, they did go into other IT fields. When I asked a couple of them why they mentioned things like long term job prospects, pay prospects, mortgages and family. On the otherhand when I asked the blokes on the course they said they didn't care about money they just wanted to make games. I no longer work in games I worki in financial software and the number of female programmers is still tiny but, the majority of buisness analysists and buisness managers are ex female programmers.

Edited by Buster2000, 07 December 2012 - 03:24 AM.


#9 lawnjelly   Members   -  Reputation: 429

Posted 07 December 2012 - 03:52 AM

It may come as a shock to some, but men and women are different.

There is a genetic element to this - a lot of the notable differences come about as a result of hormones throughout their lives (such as testosterone, oestrogen, progesterone), in the womb (where brain development can be affected), throughout their lives, puberty etc. You can get 'in between sexes' where the the chromosomes are XX or XY but the hormones for one reason or another are not in their normal ratios, for instance due to drugs the pregnant mother is exposed to.

There is also an environmental element to this - male and female children tend to be brought up differently.

The relative importance of the genetic and environmental effects in determining the phenotype (how the individual appears, behaves etc) is a topic of much debate.

The end result though, is that men and women, boys and girls, as well as looking different, also behave differently, tend (on average) to have different interests, and find some things more important than others. There are some scientifically well established differences in abilities / interests between the sexes (statistically on average .. there is overlap between the groups in different areas in various individuals).

To then ignore all this, and insinuate that the reason for more males / females in a particular career / interest must be due to 'employer bias' or equivalent, is perhaps a little shortsighted.

What's more interesting is, what's being done to address the problem?


But, is this a problem?

If there were equal numbers of women to men that wanted to work in the field and had equal ability, then I agree, there would be an argument that discrimination was a problem. But are there equal numbers of both sexes that want to work in this field, and are the abilities equal? How can you be sure that the reason for lack of women is not primarily that they are (on average) 'not interested' in the particular jobs?

#10 Memories are Better   Prime Members   -  Reputation: 769

Posted 07 December 2012 - 04:52 AM

Its funny because in my last web development job I was the only guy on the team and now that I think about it every web development job I applied for I was either interviewed by a woman or two women, perhaps JavaScript is more appealing to women than men

#11 Arale   Members   -  Reputation: 206

Posted 07 December 2012 - 06:37 AM

Interesting bit of history: programming was originally a very female-dominated field.


Well, I learned something today.

To then ignore all this, and insinuate that the reason for more males / females in a particular career / interest must be due to 'employer bias' or equivalent, is perhaps a little shortsighted.


I think that's a fair assertion. I'm probably speaking out of inexperience here, to be blatantly honest, but in any field that's "dominated" by a certain group, I feel like that reason isn't largely in the management of those groups but more the will of certain other groups to join that field. I mean, are there really as many women who want to go into game development as there are men? I don't think so.

#12 Khaiy   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 1342

Posted 07 December 2012 - 10:32 AM

It may come as a shock to some, but men and women are different.

There is a genetic element to this - a lot of the notable differences come about as a result of hormones throughout their lives (such as testosterone, oestrogen, progesterone), in the womb (where brain development can be affected), throughout their lives, puberty etc. You can get 'in between sexes' where the the chromosomes are XX or XY but the hormones for one reason or another are not in their normal ratios, for instance due to drugs the pregnant mother is exposed to.

There is also an environmental element to this - male and female children tend to be brought up differently.

The relative importance of the genetic and environmental effects in determining the phenotype (how the individual appears, behaves etc) is a topic of much debate.

The end result though, is that men and women, boys and girls, as well as looking different, also behave differently, tend (on average) to have different interests, and find some things more important than others. There are some scientifically well established differences in abilities / interests between the sexes (statistically on average .. there is overlap between the groups in different areas in various individuals).

To then ignore all this, and insinuate that the reason for more males / females in a particular career / interest must be due to 'employer bias' or equivalent, is perhaps a little shortsighted.

What's more interesting is, what's being done to address the problem?


But, is this a problem?

If there were equal numbers of women to men that wanted to work in the field and had equal ability, then I agree, there would be an argument that discrimination was a problem. But are there equal numbers of both sexes that want to work in this field, and are the abilities equal? How can you be sure that the reason for lack of women is not primarily that they are (on average) 'not interested' in the particular jobs?


Social differences, like how children are raised may explain an observation such as the gender composition of the field, but hardly excuses it. Social pressures used to state that women were unfit for nearly all jobs, and as a result there was "less interest" because why think about a job that you can't have anyways? Such social pressures are even worse than employer bias, being more pervasive and implicitly extending that bias to employers anyhow.

If you want to suggest genetic differences, you'll have some heavy lifting to do. Not because genetic differences aren't real, but rather because that same argument has been tortured into legitimizing various forms of discrimination for centuries. If the argument is that there is a group which is inherently worse at or inherently uninterested in some activity, I want to see which genes and processes you think are responsible. Otherwise you're only trying to justify the observation you're describing rather than explaining it.

Statistically we should expect there to be a roughly equal distribution of genders in any given industry. Where that is not the case, there must be some explanation. If that explanation is anything other than specific genetic explanations, well studied and documented I wouldn't be so blase about asserting that there isn't a problem.

#13 way2lazy2care   Members   -  Reputation: 782

Posted 07 December 2012 - 11:04 AM

This is kind of off topic now, but I'm not a fan of how the feminism in games movement at large lumps in harrassment with marketing to your demographics. They can be related, but being groped at conferences/descriminated against at work is a totally separate issue to having primarily male protagonists in games. The former is imo much more serious.

I find it frustrating and detrimental to the discussion of the issues as a whole to play them as the same card.

#14 swiftcoder   Senior Moderators   -  Reputation: 10364

Posted 07 December 2012 - 12:16 PM

being groped at conferences/descriminated against at work is a totally separate issue to having primarily male protagonists in games. The former is imo much more serious.

I'd argue that in the long run, the latter is far more serious.

When you go to the doctor, would you rather he just treat the visible symptoms, or the underlying disease?

Tristam MacDonald - Software Engineer @Amazon - [swiftcoding]


#15 way2lazy2care   Members   -  Reputation: 782

Posted 07 December 2012 - 12:40 PM

When you go to the doctor, would you rather he just treat the visible symptoms, or the underlying disease?

That's assuming they have the same cause though. The latter has any number of causes; market demographics make up a significant amount of it, and I wouldn't consider market demographics a, "disease" per-se. The former is male chauvinism. 'Fixing' market demographics won't fix male chauvinism. I see no reason to assume that they operate on the same cause (descrimination/chauvinism vs. market demographics).

One could reasonably and soundly argue that male centric design is hurting the quality of video games, but it is an entirely different thing to think that the reason games are male centric is because of sexism rather than market demographics.

Say we 'treat' the disease of skewed market demographics; does that solve that some men are assholes to women in the workplace? Generally, no. Say we crack down on men being assholes; does that suddenly make women want to increase their relative make up of the market? I can't see that being the case either. The argument that, "This guy grabbed my ass at a conference because we don't make more games for a small portion of our market," or vice versa is not only silly, but totally detrimental to the solution of either. It's like trying to fit an orange and a Prius into a square hole (this metaphor makes no sense on purpose).

#16 swiftcoder   Senior Moderators   -  Reputation: 10364

Posted 07 December 2012 - 12:44 PM

The argument that, "This guy grabbed my ass at a conference because we don't make more games for a small portion of our market,"

You are still dealing with symptoms, not underlying causes. Need to go deeper...

As you say, it is very unlikely that guys mistreat women because we don't make enough video games for women. But why aren't women a major demographic for video games?

Edited by swiftcoder, 07 December 2012 - 12:45 PM.

Tristam MacDonald - Software Engineer @Amazon - [swiftcoding]


#17 way2lazy2care   Members   -  Reputation: 782

Posted 07 December 2012 - 12:59 PM

You are still dealing with symptoms, not underlying causes. Need to go deeper...

As you say, it is very unlikely that guys mistreat women because we don't make enough video games for women. But why aren't women a major demographic for video games?

I'm not saying there isn't some sort of reinforcement loop. The issues both feed off of division between genders, but I think it's not helpful to so closely tie two things caused by a broad near unfixable problem.

#18 tstrimple   Prime Members   -  Reputation: 1734

Posted 07 December 2012 - 01:07 PM

All I know is I am one year into an eighteen year experiment of what it takes to raise a girl interested in science and technology. Although that probably has more to do with me wanting to buy cool toys for her and not barbie dolls.

#19 swiftcoder   Senior Moderators   -  Reputation: 10364

Posted 07 December 2012 - 01:21 PM

caused by a broad near unfixable problem.

I don't get why you think the problem is unfixable.

Science fiction was a thoroughly male-dominated genre in the pre-war era, catering almost purely to male tastes, and published in male-oriented publications (for example, Playboy). But in the 60's and 70's that was all turned on its head, and a rising wave of female authors and readers transformed the genre, to the point that it's become quite rare to see modern science fiction that does not at least pay lip service to the genre's feminist influences.

Comic books have been undergoing a similar, if more gradual transition, over the the last few decades. Why should video games not follow suit, at some point in the future?

Tristam MacDonald - Software Engineer @Amazon - [swiftcoding]


#20 way2lazy2care   Members   -  Reputation: 782

Posted 07 December 2012 - 01:56 PM


caused by a broad near unfixable problem.

I don't get why you think the problem is unfixable.

The problem to which I was referring was differences in gender perception. I don't see how that is extraordinarily fixable. Possible to overcome perhaps, but I stand by "near unfixable"; distinctly different from just unfixable.

Science fiction was a thoroughly male-dominated genre in the pre-war era, catering almost purely to male tastes, and published in male-oriented publications (for example, Playboy). But in the 60's and 70's that was all turned on its head, and a rising wave of female authors and readers transformed the genre, to the point that it's become quite rare to see modern science fiction that does not at least pay lip service to the genre's feminist influences.

Comic books have been undergoing a similar, if more gradual transition, over the the last few decades. Why should video games not follow suit, at some point in the future?


How are the demographics in either of those markets doing? From what I've seen from demographic data they are both around 30%, which is pretty much the same as video games. Furthermore, how does that stop men who go to either sci fi or comic book events from being complete dickheads to the women there or stop men in either industry from discriminating against them on the work front? Maybe this gender renaissance is the reason there are so many fewer scantily clad women at comic-cons than at E3?




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