What works to support diversity in the creative industries? Insights from roundtable 3 of the APPG for Creative Diversity

By the APPG for Creative Diversity team

July 29, 2020

The third meeting of the APPG heard evidence from the video games industry. Just like fashion, gaming is a huge economic success - worth £5.7bn to the UK economy and growing - but has complex problems and inequalities. Also like fashion, the sector is diverse in its professional make-up, with huge multinational corporations coexisting with small developers. There are also important distinctions within the industry, for example between publishers, developers, and (sometimes professional) players, and differences in funding and business models. This makes policy interventions complicated - and makes summarising discussions equally tricky!

The session heard about a range of examples of best practice, from outreach work with schools, through alternative forms of networking, to promotions and career trajectories. There were important commonalities with the previous evidence session on fashion, with a shared recognition that workplace culture is crucial in encouraging diversity. 

For this summary, it’s worth highlighting three key points. First, the age of the games industry; second, the specific problems associated with class, rather than the well-known issues associated with race and gender in games; and finally, the problem of data in the industry. 

Gaming is a relatively new industry, in comparison to theatre, fashion, or even film. Getting the right skills, especially in new and emerging areas of gaming technology, can be difficult. Skills shortages exist and the link between education and the industry could be much stronger. For example, linking technology courses to arts subjects, rather than keeping the arts and STEM subjects separated in schools and in higher education. The workforce is comparatively young, with large numbers of staff under 35 years old. As a result, the industry can sometimes struggle to find very senior role models in order to encourage diversity. 

Sadly, the absence of women from the games industry is a well-known problem - making up just 28% of the workforce. A lack of racial diversity has also risen up the policy agenda, as campaigning groups have highlighted working and organisational cultures as a barrier to getting in and getting on in games. Recent research has shown that games also has a class issue, with a disproportionate number of workers coming from professional and managerial, ‘middle class’, social origins. 

The underrepresentation of women, people of colour, and those from working class origins, along with other marginalised groups such as those living with chronic health conditions, is a significant challenge for the industry. It is especially challenging as, based on international evidence, interventions to address the problem have so far been ad hoc and piecemeal. More sustainable interventions, to make sure individual staff or campaigners don’t burn out, are vital to support change in the sector. This is an area where policy intervention can help make practices more coherent, systematic, and thus more effective.  

In terms of practices that are working at the moment, the session heard examples of mentoring, for both junior staff’s career development and for senior staff to better understand some of the barriers to diversity; pay gap reporting; links with schools and colleges, particularly where careers advice can help to make it clear the range of good jobs in the sector; and changes to working cultures. 

Finally, data was seen as important to support change in the industry. Data can help with transparency which aids gender pay gap reporting - one of the discussed effective strategies. Data can also show hidden problems, such as the class issue in the workforce. It can also be the basis for the conversations the industry needs, for example the impact on maternity leave policies, the prevalence of inappropriate or abusive behaviour online, or the criteria used for hiring and promotions. Yet gaming still struggles as official statistics aren’t well suited to capturing occupations and business activity in the industry.

It is clear, from the games session, that the industry wants to be more diverse. A more diverse industry means more diverse perspectives, producing a broader and more innovative range of games, along with representation that goes beyond a narrow set of traditional body types, skin tones, and characters. This final point brings us back to the themes from the fashion evidence session, suggesting that although there are major differences between the industrial sectors constituting the cultural and creative industries, the need for diversity is the same.   

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For more information about the APPG for Creative Diversity, please contact Alex Pleasants (co-secretariat) on diversityappg@gmail.com.

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