AWS for Games Blog

A conversation with Women in Games

In this post, we hear from UKIR Sales Lead for AWS Game Tech and Advisory Board Member of not-for-profit organization Women in Games (WIGJ), Sarah Calveley, who recently hosted a fireside chat at the WIGJ Global Conference.

As a woman with a career in technology, and particularly games, I’m very passionate about diversity in the industry. I was an ambassador for Amazon’s Get IT project initiative, designed by AWS to encourage girls aged 12 to 13 to consider a career in technology. I have also spoken at forums including Charlotte Gee’s (Former Editor of Techworld) Diversity in Tech event, encouraging women and under-represented groups to speak up, be heard, and be recognized.

Most recently, I became an Advisory Board Member for Women in Games (WIGJ) . Women in Games (WIGJ) is a not for profit organization that empowers women to achieve their full potential in the games industry. It works with ambassadors and partners to create a games industry, culture, and community free of gender discrimination and full of equal opportunity.

I and AWS Game Tech recently had the pleasure of participating in the Women in Games Global Conference held on September 9-10. The event was held virtually, and showcased the talented work of women working across the industry. It gave women looking to pursue a career in games the opportunity to learn from leading women in the industry, while providing the community a forum to share experiences and challenges faced by women working in the sector.

I had the pleasure of hosting a Fireside chat session alongside two inspirational leaders in the industry: Jude Ower MBE, Founder and CEO of Playmob, and Eliza Ralph, Technical Lead at Outplay. We discussed how far diversity in the industry has progressed and explored how to continue the mission to encourage more women to consider a career in games and technology, to maintain inclusive working environments, and to enable companies to retain talented women in the industry.

We talked about how we each got into the games industry, and a common theme was how nurturing and welcoming this industry is. Despite at first glance appearing cliquey or unwelcoming to non-gamers, in our cases the opposite proved to be true. “The games industry is like a big family, and through my years I have found it supportive and encouraging,” began Ower. “But I can see looking from the outside can be quite daunting. I’m keen to see gaming events open up to those not currently in the industry who want to explore career options.”

Ralph added, “My preconception about the games industry was that it was difficult to break into without being in the know, and crunch culture was simply part of the job. In reality I found the games industry in Finland to be welcoming, with a strong sense of community and knowledge sharing between studios.”

Ralph discussed the importance of early encouragement at home. She referenced the constant support and encouragement she received from her father after she showed an interest in the games industry. “He sat me down at a young enough age and taught me how to use a computer. He gave me the freedom to pursue my own interests but showed his support in terms of education,” Ralph shared.

We concluded together the importance of exposure to games and technology from an early age. The AWS Get IT program, launched in 2018, aims to inspire students aged 12 to 13 to consider a career in technology. AWS Get IT invites teams bring together students from different schools in an app-building competition to solve real issues faced by their school or community. Along the way, participants learn practical digital and IT skills, experience working as a team, and gain self-confidence by presenting ideas to wider audiences – all while being exposed to IT as a potential career.

Ralph discussed the importance of dispelling commonly held myths that may put women off from considering a career in games. For instance, the preconception that your work will feel antisocial and lonely, which Eliza informed us was seldom the case. “I found many young women study programming, to then choose a career in something else considered to be more people-orientated,” Ralph explained.

Ralph’s role as Technical Lead frequently requires her to communicate and work closely with other team members. Ower talked about the positive impact she has noticed by networking, often encouraging women to explore the industry by bringing another woman with her to each event she attends. “It would be fantastic to see more opportunities to bring women to industry events to explore the world of games, expand their networks, and learn about new career opportunities,” says Ower.

When asked what the advice would be for a 13-year-old girl who wanted to get into the games industry, the collective word was: first of all, to have a go at coding, to build something to get first-hand experience, and most importantly, to have fun!

We also discussed how important it is to be bold and fearless. At times you may have to deal with certain judgements. For instance, Ower remarked how early on in her career at an event she was mistaken for a promo girl, but she laughed it off and carried on with the task at hand. “There’s nothing wrong with being a promo girl, I’m sure they’re fun and exciting roles, but the preconception did make me laugh. It’s important not to internalize comments otherwise they can eat away at you. Remember that remarks are only that, and you should keep true to what you believe in,” Ower shared.

We have definitely come a long way in terms of increasing gender diversity in games and technology. But there is always progress we can make. I, and AWS Game Tech, look forward to working closely with WIGJ, and partnering with customers such as Playmob and Outplay to continue our mission to attract, retain, and develop women to and within the games industry.