Men championing women in the computer games industry – my interview with Dave Parkinson of Sony Interactive Entertainment

Posted on: September 13, 2016

The games industry is full of geeky boys in their bedrooms playing violent games, right?

That’s what I used to think. In fact, women now make up 50% of games players, the games industry is bigger than the film industry and computer games, if used well, are a fantastic educational tool.

So, rather than just leaving it to the boys, there is a big push to get more women into the industry. I interviewed Dave Parkinson, Director at Sony Interactive Entertainment to find out what he’s doing to champion women in games. Here’s what he has to say…

The games industry has a reputation for being very male dominated. Why is it important to attract more women to working in the industry?

There are 3 reasons that stand out for me.

Firstly, women make up 50% of game players now so it absolutely makes sense to reflect this in our workforce so that we understand the desires of our customers.

Secondly, a diverse workforce means a healthier organisation – newcomers to the industry can spot and challenge “groupthink” and shake things up in positive ways, keeping us fresh and innovative.

Thirdly, from a purely pragmatic point of view we’re facing a technology skills shortage. We simply can’t plug that gap unless we encourage more women into the industry.

What do you see as the major obstacles holding women back from thriving in the industry?

In my view the problem starts early on, long before a woman steps through the door of a games company. Historically, girls have not been encouraged to study technology subjects so work needs to be done with schools and career services to change this and help girls to see this as an area that is attractive and accessible to them.

Also, the industry has not helped itself in the past by the stereotypical way women have been portrayed in some very popular games.

Fortunately, there are now a significant number of high profile women in the industry who are great role models for younger women, showing that it is entirely possible for women to thrive and influence the industry for the better. Plus there are men (like me!) who get how important this is and are making it a personal priority to encourage women.

What are some of the things you are doing as a male manager to empower women in your organization?

Personally, I encourage the women in my team to get out there and attend – and speak at – as many conferences and events as possible.  This raises their individual profile and demonstrates the opportunities that are available to women in this sector.

Where someone shows a particular passion, I’ll do everything I can to support that. For example, one of our rising stars, Michelle Tilley, is very committed to empowering women in games and I’ve encouraged this by sponsoring her to attend a 6 month leadership programme for aspiring women leaders in this sector and she has since been nominated her for a women in games award. As a result, she has identified an external initiative we are planning to sponsor which teaches teenage girls how to code – a vital first step towards bringing more women into the industry!