Finding and Hiring Female Developers

by Darius Kazemi on September 18, 2006

in Uncategorized

I was discussing the whole 100 Influential Women thing with the girlfriend the other day, and she asked me a stumper of a question.

“When you start your own game company, what are you going to do to attract female developers?”

I thought I knew the answer to this question. My mouth opened, ready to impart my methodology, when I realized that I had no freaking idea. Nothing. I think that, in the back of my mind, I’ve always thought, “Well, my company will be cool, so that’ll take care of the problem.” Not exactly a briliant plan.

So I’ve been thinking about the issue for a few days now, and I can only think of a few ways to attain a 50/50 gender ratio. (As a side note: no, I don’t believe in hiring women over men just to even out a ratio. These are ideally strategies for finding extremely talented women who I’d want to hire under any circumstances. Furthermore, I would want my company to have a 50/50 gender ratio because I believe that women provide crucial perspectives to problem-solving that men alone can’t achieve.)

  • Recruit from local women’s colleges. There are a lot of talented game-loving women at these schools who, for mostly cultural reasons, have never considered a career in video games to be remotely viable. (The girlfriend gets all the credit for this one.)
  • Don’t be presumptuous about what’s female friendly. I initially approached this problem thinking, “Well, obviously it would help if my games weren’t terribly violent. And if they had a strong social component.” But then I realized what a patronizing attitude that is. Sometimes I feel like “make it social” is the new “slap on a Barbie license.”
  • On the other hand, being super macho doesn’t help at all. I remember at GDC ’06, I was sitting next to an extremely talented woman that I would hire in a split second, and we were watching CliffyB’s pitch for a game to bring about world peace. And she was just about spitting venom at the end of his talk w/r/t how male-centric his game design was (basically, it was the man of the household’s duty to protect everyone). Somehow I don’t see her working for Epic any time soon.
  • When networking, don’t hit on the women you meet. It’s almost unbelievable, but I know some hetero male developers who get infatuated with the female game developers they meet. And while I don’t blame them for being attracted to awesome people, I do blame them when they act on it. It always comes off as creepy. It’s better to just lay off, turn down your natural love-god/game-developer vibes *cough*, and aim for strictly professional relationships from the start. You’ll make good friends, and female developers tend to know other female developers, so these contacts are good places to start when seeking great women to recruit.

That’s all I was able to come up with, aside from some other half-baked ideas that I’m not sure will work. There are also some good resources at the IGDA Women in Game Development SIG that I haven’t checked out yet.

Any suggestions out there? I’d especially love to hear from some female devs on this issue…


Craig Perko September 18, 2006 at 4:38 am

(Now if you have a blogger 2 account, you can’t post to blogger 1 blogs? Oh, come on, that’s just flat-out retarded.)

Don’t know much about female devs, but it didn’t seem very hard to find a female artist.

I think a lot of people get too wound up about the issues, and then when they try to deal with an issue, it just daunts them and they flatline.

I see too many people approach an issue that daunts them with an oversensitivity that drives people away. I’ve seen a lot of people who simply approach it openly and with confidence, and they seem to succeed.

If you need a female dev, go find one. They exist, and even if they are too busy or uninterested, they may know – get this – OTHER female devs.

Bradley Momberger September 18, 2006 at 6:03 am

But then I realized what a patronizing attitude that is. Sometimes I feel like “make it social” is the new “slap on a Barbie license.”

I think you may be giving the general public too much credit here. Remember the old Stiglerian* adage, “Nobody ever went broke underestimating the (taste|intelligence) of the American public.” The fact that you’re having these thoughts that “social elements => female-friendly” is not patronizing so much as it is a conditioned response based almost entirely on the economics of the industry. The catch that you’re falling victim to is that you’re crawling back into the box. You’re being a suit about it and letting a slanty view of what sells influence your idea of what to make. And that’s not why you are where you are, is it?

*Stiglerian: in the vein of Stigler’s Law, attributed to people who never coined it but not to whoever actually did.

Ian Schreiber September 18, 2006 at 11:04 pm

Strangely, nearly all the women I know in the industry are on that list.

While I’d like to think this is due to my great networking skills to know so many influential people, I suspect it’s mainly because there are only 100 women in the industry, total…

Darren Torpey September 21, 2006 at 3:42 am

Seems to me there are two basic parts to it. As Craig said, don’t overreact with patronizing or demeaning over-sensitivity and don’t presume that conventional wisdom’s takes on what women like in games are accurate.

Besides that, it’s all about not driving them away. I think you are right to just assume that your company would be fine because it’s cool but not because that’s enough. It’s because, assuming you choose the right people to work with (at least at first) your company would hopefully not create the kind of culture that would drive women away. Of course, that again gets back to the not overreacting issue.

Okay, so maybe it’s not possible, because “boys will be boys” so unless you start with a radically and outstandingly balanced set of workers the culture will just “naturally” come up. But I’m not so sure about that. If you start with the right people, you might have a chance.

I think there are plenty of women out there who are just right and who *will* be naturally attracted to your company. The trick is just to not drive them away. ;)

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