Young women are often taking as much or more math and science courses as their male counterparts. But as they enter the workforce there’s a wide gender disparity that disadvantages women in STEM—an industry acronym for science, technology, engineering, and math—with only 22 percent of the gaming workforce made up of women in 2014, despite being the largest demographic in gaming consumers.
“I think tech and gaming are two industries that are still really seen as run by males and marketed to males, and it’s all about changing that perception,” explained Maggie Lyons, director of development for Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls.
In their Smart Girls Build series, the channel teams up with The Sims to bring real teen girls to the EA offices and get a firsthand look at how the games are made, and find ways to include their own unique talents in the final product.
The series is not only about inspiring STEM jobs, but simply inspiring girls to create around their passions.
“At Smart Girls, we encourage girls to pursue the things they’re passionate about, and the great thing about The Sims is that girls can play out the possibilities of where those passions can take them in their own lives,” explained Lyons. “If you love dance or music or photography, you can explore what you can do with your Sim in the game and even discover a path that hadn’t occurred to you before. Girls learn how to navigate their worlds, face challenges, express themselves, and build their own story.”
In the videos, a young woman is paired with a female game producer at EA working on different aspects of The Sims world, and helped to bring her ideas to life. While many other game development companies have faced backlash in their communities over the inclusion or lack thereof of women in their industry, Lyndsay Pearson, creative director and senior producer for The Sims 4, said the community around The Sims is unique in that members are more positive than their broader counterparts.
“We’re very fortunate, that our game, being very open and creative, we have a very positive community,” Pearson explained. “Our fans are always trying to help each other create something beautiful. We’ve been fortunate to avoid some of the negativity that is potentially prevalent in other parts of the industry.”
Positive or not, women still have an uphill battle to climb in terms of equality in STEM jobs, in the gaming industry and beyond. Pearson sees this partnership as a unique way to show the diversity of career options open in the gaming fields.
“You don’t have to be a core engineer to get into games,” Pearson said. “There’s a lot of a different roles that come together to make a video game or to put together tech. Being able to highlight these role models and career options gives people exposure to fields they might not have considered.”
Screengrab via Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls/YouTube