Women Working in VR – It’s Slow Progress

Draw & Code’s Head of HR Gemma Dale looks at our progress towards a better gender balance in our organisation and the wider struggles faced by our industry.

It’s International Women’s Day 2023 and for us at Draw & Code that is usually a time to take stock, reflect on where we are at as a company and as a wider industry. While we celebrate the talented women working in VR, AR and games, we rarely feel like we can celebrate progress in our own gender make-up as an organisation. This year, we have made some progress though, so let’s start there. 

In spite of us wanting to boost the diversity of our team, a year ago a lowly 19% of the Draw & Code team were women. Today, that figure stands at 33% and it has been a little higher in between those dates too. Until we’re hitting 50% and seeing a better distribution of women in all areas and levels of the business the champagne remains on ice and the party poppers will not be popped. What is truly shocking is that this improved gender split, that we can only muster a small cheer for, is still better than the average in our industry.

The technology industry continues to grow, continues to be all pervasive and with new innovations and advancements emerging in our specialism of XR, we should be seeing more women working in VR and AR by default. After all, finding talent is a perennial problem in technology, isn’t it? Despite this pressing need and many worthwhile efforts to change the status quo, women remain significantly underrepresented in tech roles, particularly in leadership positions.

The poor gender representation in technology is a complex issue and has several underlying causes. One problem is the lack of encouragement and support for girls and women to pursue careers in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) from an early age. Research has shown that girls are often steered away from STEM subjects due to societal and cultural biases that suggest these fields are more suitable for men.

Additionally, the tech industry has historically been dominated by men, creating a culture that can be unwelcoming and exclusionary to women. This can be seen in the prevalence of gender stereotypes and biases, as well as the lack of diversity in tech company leadership.

The impact of the underrepresentation of women in technology is far-reaching. It not only limits the potential of talented individuals, but it also affects the industry as a whole. When women are excluded, a significant portion of the population is not being represented in the creation of products and services. This can lead to a lack of diversity in ideas and perspectives, potentially limiting innovation and the development of new technologies. It can affect the bottom line of a company – why would you want to risk excluding potential customers?

There’s no simple solution to addressing the underrepresentation of women in technology. There are however steps that the industry can take. We can provide training and education on diversity and inclusion, as well as challenging biases and stereotypes in hiring and promotion processes – including our own. We can support the career development of women in technology through mentoring, coaching and opportunities to network.

We also need to do much more to encourage and support girls and women to pursue STEM education and careers from an early age. This can be done through initiatives such as mentorship programs, scholarships, and outreach programs.

While solid and good ideas, none of the above are brand new concepts and they are long term solutions, not quick fixes. I was told that in the building where Draw & Code is based in the Knowledge Quarter in Liverpool, there were once some more immediate attempts to solve the disparity of women in the workplace. Within the courtyard we reside in there was once a space that hosted coding courses for women that operated decades ago. Ever since money came flowing into computer programming, something that was invented by a woman of course, it became a man’s pursuit and it was clear, to some at least, back in the 1980s that this was already becoming a problem. On the corner of our building, in what is now 92 Degrees Coffee, there was a creche for working families to use. Again, another very practical way to help women into work.  

If we want to ensure that women are represented in the creation of the technology that shapes our world, everyone in the industry needs to make ongoing, consistent efforts to be the change that we want to see, whether it’s a helping hand in the everyday or a long term strategy of how to build a better industry. Let’s hope the next time International Women’s Day comes around we can report an improved gender split here at Draw & Code.

Picture of Phil

Phil

I’m the resident head of comms and partnerships here at Draw & Code. I work on strategy, sales, marketing and other vital areas at a studio that was founded on a dream and has spent the intervening decade trying to make that dream come true. I believe that immersive and interactive technologies are impacting on our lives and being in the epicentre of this industry makes every day a thrill.

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