Industry Leadership

I’ve struggled with sitting down to write this up. I’ve alternated between feeling like saying anything at the moment is inappropriate, and that my voice was not needed – as the victims are speaking for themselves. Other times, I’ve felt as if this was yet another event in my lifetime that if I stay silent I’ll end up looking back on ten, twenty years from now and be ashamed that I didn’t do anything.

The discussion has permeated every aspect of my life lately. From late night discussions with my wife, to derailing meetings at work, and of course completely dominating social media. (At least my social media)

To that end, I want to take a moment to speak to my fellow Games Industry leaders. As we have a responsibility, that I feel we have failed at for years.

During last years Riot Games Sexual Harassment and Gender Discrimination discussions within the industry, I took a few moments to pull aside the few female team members I had working with me at inXile. I took time to speak to them, and let them know that their presence is valued – to tell them how I would be there to support them if they experienced harassment or discrimination while working on my project. What I thought would be a simple, albeit potentially awkward conversation – resulted in these team members thanking me as they said they had never had a manager come directly to them to explicitly express support, and a desire to empower them as under represented members of the industry.
(Now to be clear, this is not a poor reflection on inXile, as the VP of Operations there is one of the most compassionate and caring people I’ve met in said industry)

But take a moment and think about that statement..

These women, by no means Juniors to their disciplines, whom had spent years (each well over a decade) in the game development industry – had never explicitly had a manager (direct, or otherwise) let them know that said person was there *for them* should they need it.
And that statement really, is the bare-fucking-minimum.

The more I stop and think about it – the more instances of sexism, and objectification (which both often lead to discrimination) I can recall from my time in the industry. An instance of a mid level (reporting to a GM) Microsoft Blue Badge (FTE) laughing and sharing videos that were found online of a female coworker (same org, different GM) of a sexual nature. A director level employee of another studio whom openly groped and objectified other studio level female employees, and it was just brushed aside because “Welp, boys will be boys” (Im paraphrasing).

Jesus Christ, if it can happen at Microsoft – ON CAMPUS – you can bet your ass its happening other places. Microsoft has mandatory SBC and Ethics seminars for its employees on the -REGULAR- (Don’t be a Nelson!)

Its not really on Netflix.. yet?

I’m sure I’m rambling at this point – but bare with me, please.

Over the last few days I’ve seen far too many names in the growing list of sexual harassers, abusers, and in some cases rapists that are from our industry. Big names, names of LEADERS. Often the reports mention trade shows, conferences, and the like – sometimes they straight up involve the workplace directly. One reoccurring theme I see is the usage of “power” or influence within the industry, or the studio – used over women (Juniors and Seniors alike).
Friends, former coworkers, and people I looked up to. I found it soul crushing, and often I sat at my desk not knowing what to do.
Those thoughts inevitably brought me to the same conclusion I’ve come to on several topics over the last few months – and they all boil down to one major point.

We as leaders, have failed our industry, and we have failed the teams who have worked beside us to create our worlds, experiences, and titles.

Even where I am now, looking around the room during leadership meetings at my current employer. I find myself thinking – hey, this is some strong representation, we have a good spectrum of voices, and a good array of strong leaders – so I suppose we should feel good. We’re not part of the problem.

And the truth of the matter is, that is flat out – plain – fucking – wrong.

Its not simple enough to look around, come to the conclusion that we must not be the problem. We absolutely have to be part of the solution. This requires some *radical* thinking though! /s

Simply put, far too many of us far too often get caught in this fucked up mentality of our own importance. If we as leaders are not ensuring we put a focus on growing, supporting, and guiding the people under us then we have, and continue to FAIL.

– Talk to the women on your team
– Let them know that you are there for them
– Ensure that they have a safe person to come to about anyone, including yourself
– Make it crystal clear to your team members that bigotry, sexism, harassment are things that you will not tolerate
– Look into anonymous forms of peer and manager review if possible!
– GROW Your people! Invest time and resources into expanding their knowledge base, and supporting their desire to grow beyond what you hired them for
– Endeavor to grow women in your studio into leadership roles whenever possible
– Listen
– Listen
– Listen

Its undeniable that in many, many ways our industry is not safe for women – as much as we might desire to think it is. We as the leaders of our respective studios, and projects have the opportunity to start to affect change.

Honestly, there is so much more I want to say – so many things in our industry I am angry about lately. I suppose I’ll continue ranting in further posts.

Just don’t forget, please. Being a leader is not about lifting ourselves and our own importance up. It is, and should be about leading – about guiding – about lifting up – the people who work with us.

Oh, and if you’ve ever worked with me – know me in any way – or just came across this post and need someone to talk to about anything listed here – my DMs are open.

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