The consensus on Wednesday's post about the lack of women presenters at Sony's PS4 event was rather uniform: there were no women at the PlayStation 4 reveal, because obviously there aren't women in high positions and the project leads just happen to be male.
"The reason there were no women on-stage is because the presidents and developers who happened to develop the software being presented happened to be male," wrote commenter hsuadfhaspodhf on Kotaku. "It is not part of some sexist agenda, it just so happens that the people behind the creation of the content being presented happened to be men."
To add to that, a common perception seems to be that there aren't women in high positions like the project leads that were featured, so that's why it happened. That's just the reality, some people said, while ignoring why things like that happen in the first place and what it has to do with gender.
Yesterday, noted developer Kellee Santiago—formerly of Thatgamecompany, behind recent PlayStation indie darling, Journey—tweeted these things:
There are women in high positions at Sony who were qualified to speak yesterday at or around the press conf. Sony chose not to show them.— Kellee Santiago (@KelleeSan) February 21, 2013
@kittygetwet this is what I'm sick of hearing. They didn't need to scrape the bottom to find women. There are women directors and execs.— Kellee Santiago (@KelleeSan) February 21, 2013
@_zzzoom_ That women execs at Sony exist, even if the PS4 doesn't yet.— Kellee Santiago (@KelleeSan) February 21, 2013
Hmm, that doesn't quite gel with the common perception, does it? I reached out to Kellee to see if she'd be willing to elaborate on the subject. Here's what she said:
I think it's time for us as an industry to take some responsibility in how we represent ourselves. Like the DICE awards had one woman... not even proportional to the industry itself, much less any attempt to be more inclusive! And I got weary with many of the comments to your article that it's just because there don't happen to be women in these positions, and we should get over it. Someone on my FB said it well, that as small as it still might be, there IS much more diversity in game development now, but the representation remains the same, and I think that speaks to why we feel more frustrated this year than in the past.
The truth is, some percentage of the people that tuned in yesterday to get excited about the new console were women. And yet again, we were told "Not by you, not for you." It feels like the industry should be past this by now, no?
I've reached out to Sony for comment on the situation, but in the meantime, it seems worth saying that the conversation—for me at least—isn't so much to say Sony or PS4 developers are sexist. That's an easily derailed conversation that will revolve around disputing what type of companies these are.
There were no women presenters. You can argue to hell and back over what type of company Sony or developers for the PS4 are, but the reality remains the same: there were no women presenters and it wasn't for a lack of having women executives. A cursory LinkedIn search can show you that much.
Noticing this fact isn't a call for affirmative action, and it's not about getting enraged about sexism.
It's about opening up an conversation as to why this happens at events like the PS4 unveil—perhaps, to talk about women in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and math) and the issues they face. Because whether or not there are some women working in these fields, there still aren't enough, and it's an issue. There are entire programs created by educational institutions and the government to get more women in these fields-because yes, it's a problem. EDIT: including programs made by Sony itself, yes.
Writing about that survey for Forbes, Meghan Casserly says:
Just 9% of U.S. chief information officers (CIOs) are female, down from 11% last year and 12% in 2010. According to Reuters, 30% of the 450 American tech executives polled said their IT groups have no women at all in management positions. What's more, when the same group of executives was asked whether women were underrepresented, roughly one half said no.
The reason why this happens is not clear, though there are many theories. The study by the ESA here postulates the following:
The underrepresentation of women in STEM majors and jobs may be attributable to a variety of factors. These may include different choices men and women typically make in response to incentives in STEM education and STEM employment
For example, STEM career paths may be less accommodating to people cycling in and out of the workforce to raise a family or it may be because there are relatively few female STEM role models. Perhaps strong gender stereotypes discourage women from pursuing STEM education and STEM jobs.
While this report does not and cannot explain why gender differences in STEM exist, it does aim to provide data and insight that will enable more informed policymaking. The findings provide definitive evidence of a need to encourage and support women in STEM with a goal of gender parity.
Given the high quality, well paying jobs in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math, there is great opportunity for growth in STEM in support of American competitiveness, innovation and jobs of the future.
You might note that, crucially, one of the factors the ESA lists is a lack of role models. And as the PS4 event shows us, the role models that do exist? They're less visible thanks both to smaller numbers, and in some ways, outright erasure.
Because what else would you call wrongly saying there are no women in high positions in game development except erasure?