You’re Not the Boss of Me (Yet)
How Stereotypes Can Become Opportunities
The bolt action on your sniper rifle clicks softly.
You poke your head just high enough to peek over the ledge, and watch the combat unfolding below you. Blue team, your guys, are pinned down and out-numbered. They’d have been annihilated minutes ago, except for PythonInMyPants, your team’s heavy gunner. He’s an Olympic level dick, but he’s also a sort of virtuoso of destruction, singlehandedly keeping your team in the game. You’re the only girl, so he gives you constant crap, sending you out on recon runs, which is his terribly clever euphemism for bait or cannon fodder. Big surprise.
You line up the shot and click the mouse.
PythonInMyPant’s brain explodes in a cloud of red gore. The enemy captures your flag less than thirty seconds later. You smile anyway. ‘Victory’ is a relative thing. It depends which battle you’re fighting.
This is the world of videogames. Endless, mindless slaughterfests, built for teenage boys, by older (and arguably even less mature) boys.
As far as you’re concerned, First Person Shooters are okay, but you can take them or leave them. Unfortunately, if you want to play the games with the best graphics, your options are limited. It’s mostly gorefests, with wizards farting fireballs and aliens firing lasers from their eyes, all being slaughtered by chainmail-bikini-wearing heroines with impossible boob-to-waist ratios.
Unfortunately, most of the suits at the helm of the companies that make these games are just grown-up versions of the gun-crazed, boob-obsessed kids who design them. Intellectually, they know, sort of, that there’s a huge market out there for women gamers, but they steadfastly point at self-fulfilling sales figures and say, “We develop what the market wants.”
Things are changing. Slowly. The problem is that the few designers who seem aware that females exist are outnumbered. There’s a push to get more women in development and design, but you’ve got to be a computer programmer to get into the industry, right? Maybe that’s your thing. Maybe not.
Except that’s not quite true. You don’t need to be a mathematical genius to break into the games industry. You don’t have to be super creative. You don’t have to be a 3D artist. There’s another way. Maybe a better way. A way that people somehow ignore when they think about making videogames.
Yeah, I know, but humor me. Don’t stop reading yet.
Take a look at the trends. Over the past few years, a bunch of researchers have been crunching numbers, and they’re reaching some crazy-cool conclusions.
Women make better managers and leaders than men. No shit, it’s true. I’ve provided a handful of statistics as an addendum at the end of this post, but the upshot is that companies with higher percentages of female leadership:
- Grow faster
- Have stronger stock prices
- Score better on executive management skill tests
And it’s not a bunch of gratuitous smoke-and-mirrors where they change the scale to make women look better. It shocks a lot of people, but the data is undeniable.
I could speculate about the reasons why. Lots of people already have, and if you think about it, most of the reasons they give make sense. There’s a certain logic to the realization that culturally, women are forced to develop the necessary skills of social navigation from an early age.
Ironically, generations worth of repressive social norms have resulted a skill-set that prepares women extremely well for positions of high-level leadership. You’ve got to love how often karma has a kind of cosmic sense of humor like that.
Regardless, that’s your foot in the door.
You don’t need to be a a coder or an artist. It’s fine if you are. Go for it. That’s one way in. But if you’re more of a people person; if you’re organized and have some empathy and common sense; if you’re decisive and able to communicate; if you’re the type who’s willing to kneecap the jerkoff who gives you crap on the battlefield; you’d probably make a kickass leader. And trust me, the videogame industry needs leaders.
But, you ask, what about those suits at the helm of the companies making videogames? You don’t need to worry about them. They may have sophomoric personal histories, but age has instilled in them a serious love of money, and that can only work in your favor. They can see the same trends I can see. They know the untapped market is out there. They know that having women inside the machine will help them tap that market, and as an added bonus, those women, on average, will do a better job at leading the effort than the men will. Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook came to that conclusion a few years ago, and now everybody knows who Sheryl Sandberg is.
The world is about to change. A perfect storm is brewing, where reality is starting to dawn on business minds. You’re young. You love videogames. You’re perfectly positioned at the edge of the storm, standing in the right place and time, ready to spread your wings and ride the wind.
What will you do?
ADDENDUM – As promised for the number crunchers out there, here are the high points in the data:
- In 2015, The University of California Davis published a study of the 400 largest public companies in California. Of the 25 firms with the highest percentage of women execs and board members, researchers found that median returns on assets and equity were 74% higher than the average among the overall group of companies they surveyed.
- Those 25 firms had women in 35.2% of their leadership roles, were led by female CEOs 44% of the time, and managed a 12.2% return on equity
- Of the remaining 375 largest Californian firms, women occupied leadership roles 12.3% of the time, with only 4.3% female CEOs, and they only managed a 7% return on equity.
- San Francisco-based Williams-Sonoma Inc. had the highest proportion of females in leadership positions, at 57.1%, along with a female CEO (Laura Abner). They managed a 24.9% return on equity.
- In 2016, a study by the McKinsey Global Institute determined that if every country could narrow its gender gap at the same rate as the fastest-improving nation in its regional peer group, the world could add $12 trillion to its annual Gross Domestic Product. Twelve trillion. That would represent an 11% improvement over the current track under optimal conditions.
- In 2016, Credit Suisse 3000 concluded, “the outperformance of companies with 25% [senior-level] women is a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 2.8%, 4.7% for 33% and 10.3% for those over 50% compared with a 1% annual decline for the MSCI ACWI over the same period.”
- Let that sink in. The higher the rate of senior level women, the higher the growth rate of the company. With the average company seeing a 1% decline in 2016, companies with over 50% female leadership saw a 10.3% increase in growth.
- A recent Nordea Study analyzed nearly 11,000 publicly traded companies around the globe over an eight-year period (with the criteria that each must see at least $2 million in stock trades per day). Their results showed that companies with women in the CEO position or as a chairperson on the board averaged a 25% annualized return since 2009. That’s more than double the average 11% return of the remaining companies.
- Zenger-Folkman studied overall leadership effectiveness across a very large sampling group, and determined that the male leaders scored 51.8, while the females scored 54.5. Across the core competencies they studied, they found the following (the green cells are where the women scored at least a point higher than the men. The red cells are where the men outscored the women. And the yellow scores were less than 1 point difference between genders):
|Displays high integrity and Honesty||49.9||54.7|
|Drives for Results||50.6||55.2|
|Inspires and Motivates Others||51.6||55.1|
|Collaboration and Teamwork||52.1||54.5|
|Establishes Stretch Goals||51.7||54.1|
|Solves Problems/Analyzes Issues||52.0||52.7|
|Communicates powerfully and prolifically||52.9||53.4|
|Connects the Group to the Outside World||52.3||52.1|
|Technical or Professional Expertise||52.1||51.1|
|Develops Strategic Perspective||53.7||51.2|