It’s International Women’s Day today, and a great opportunity for us to explore some issues that are important to us as an employer.
The real power of events like International Women’s Day is to get people talking openly about concepts that can be otherwise downplayed or misunderstood, and this year the campaign theme is #EmbraceEquity.
It’s broadly accepted that ‘equality’ is a positive thing to strive for, so some might be initially puzzled by this year’s IWD statement that equal opportunities aren’t enough. But let’s break that down: is it really fair to treat the advantaged and disadvantaged in exactly the same way?
International Women’s Day argues – and nDreams agrees – that systemic inequality demands further action to welcome and support marginalised people in the games industry. In simple terms, equity means everyone getting the support they need.
To put into context the issues at play here, we asked Athena (nDreams’ marginalised genders collective) to share their perspectives on some topics relating to equity and its importance in the games industry.
“An equal opportunity is one thing but if one person is facing that with no responsibilities and another has lots then you don't end up with equity,” Chief People Officer Tamsin O’Luanaigh summarises. “Traditionally, women end up with caring responsibilities, maternity and childcare, poorer health care, and more, meaning they are systemically disadvantaged.”
The solution to improving gender equity in the industry, according to Tamsin, is simple but goes right to the top: “Hire, train, develop, promote, and invest in women founders,” she says.
How does nDreams do this? As a company co-founder, Tamsin has been pushing initiatives to improve representation at nDreams and throughout the industry. The more representation in the industry, the more we can support each other and lift each other up.
This includes the nDreams Academy, an initiative to improve industry access with a particular focus on accessing underrepresented people. Further to this, a dedicated Learning & Development pathway includes management training and other upskilling to encourage a new generation of industry leaders.
We are also tracking our pay gap, and making our reports public. In 2022, we had a negative pay gap, which meant on average women earned more than men.
Kat Parker, nDreams Brand Manager, echoes Tamsin’s ideas about representative management: “I think to improve Gender Equity, we need more women in leadership roles,” she says. “I've worked in the industry since I was 22 and I've felt a lot of uncertainty and imposter syndrome in my role as I lacked inspiration from upper management. I've lacked the feeling of 'Hey, I'd love to be that person in five years!'”
“When I was younger, I felt at times I had to be more 'like a man', meaning traits that are associated with being masculine – argumentative, unkind, ruthless – to get further in my career," Kat continues. "Of course, not all men are like this, but those in senior positions can be. Companies need to acknowledge and recognise the traits and soft skills which women, non-binary and underrepresented people can bring to a company. I wish more companies were like nDreams, but I'm afraid not many of them are and it certainly affects a lot of younger female talent coming into the industry and them staying long enough to get to senior positions.
“What's positive is that it is getting better slowly and the next ten years will be different compared to the last ten.”
Another area to which equity relates heavily is health. Of course, our approach is about equality first and foremost; from their very first day, every team member gets access to WeCare with 24/7 GP availability. After passing probation, this becomes a private healthcare plan with medical history disregarded, or a cash plan.
But health issues and needs are not equal between men and women. There are the challenges of menopause, on which Tamsin has shared a personal story, and we will continue to address this as the normal part of life that it is, while encouraging team members to educate themselves on the topic.
Then there is menstrual health. At the office, we have free pads and tampons available in every toilet. This May, we will be addressing period poverty, which impacts an estimated 12 million refugees who have little to no access to sanitary protection.
“Another example of gender health inequality is the disparity between male and female Autism Spectrum Disorder diagnoses,” says Tamsin. “The criteria is geared towards male presentation meaning boys are often caught early and women not until late teens or even adulthood, by which time many have developed mental health issues or trauma from their experiences of a world not geared up for them.”
“My own diagnosis of adenomyosis and endometriosis took numerous different medicines, two operations, and 10 years to be resolved, with comments from GPs such as 'women just go through this type of thing. It's normal.' It wasn't normal, it was disabling and in my experience, men’s health tends to be dealt with more swiftly.”
All of these and more are reasons why it’s important for us all to #EmbraceEquity in the games industry, and why we are supporting the campaign of International Women’s Day 2023. Let’s aspire towards a year of progress for all of us.