Empowering Girls to Pursue Careers in the Gaming Industry

The Girls in Games team at a Girls in Games event in 2017.

In an effort to create more equality in today’s male-dominated gaming industry, Media Design School (MDS) faculty member Tece Bayrak started Girls in Games – a program that brings together industry leaders, MDS faculty, and students to encourage and empower girls to pursue careers in programming and game development.

Today, more women identify as gamers than ever before. Women participation in the digital gaming industry does not merely extend to playing the finished products, as more women pursue game development as a career every year. While the trend is promising, numbers indicate that the games industry is still a largely male-dominated sector.

Consistent with this trend, the overwhelming majority of students enrolled in Media Design School’s (MDS) Game Art and Game Programming degrees are male. To begin to tackle this issue, MDS faculty member Tece Bayrak launched Girls in Games in 2013 – an all-day game development workshop for girls focused on game design, game art, and game programming. The first event was created to encourage more girls to consider careers in programming and game development, as well as bringing like-minded young women together to foster relationship building around common interests and opportunities.

“When I was in school, I was one of eight girls in a computer department of nearly 120 people,” says Tece. “We are in the 21st century, and society still tends to dictate what careers are best for girls. This is something we hoped to change through Girls in Games.”

Since 2013, Girls in Games has evolved from a program involving nine schools, to two tailored workshops each year  – Senior Dev Day and Junior Dev Day – with over 300 young women participants from all over New Zealand. Despite the steady growth, the key objective remains the same: to encourage and empower girls to consider game development as a viable, engaging, and rewarding prospective career path.

As the number of participants has continued to grow, what makes Girls in Games even more impactful is the increased faculty and MDS student involvement, as well as industry leaders.

“Every year we have more and more people getting involved,” says Asma Shakil, Software Engineering faculty member. “As the program has evolved, the student, faculty, and industry volunteers have been instrumental in empowering these young women to become tomorrow’s leaders. They not only share their knowledge and expertise, but they are all tremendous role models for the participants. Without all of these incredible people, none of this would be possible.”

Girls in Games is now in its sixth year and has received enthusiastic support from participants and teachers. It has been successful in promoting female participation in the game development sector and its impact on the industry’s culture, as well as helped increase female enrollment in MDS’ game development programs.

Faculty who have contributed to Girls in Games
Tece Bayrak
Asma Shakil
Shilpa Ranjit
Jordan Browne
Ivan Khmel
Lucy Morris – Lucy is a former faculty member
Samah Hassan
Pat Dunal – Pat is a former faculty member
Sam Yang
Cynthia Wang– Cynthia is also an alumna

MDS student volunteers who have facilitated workshops for the events
Victoria Smith (2014 – 2015) – Victoria returned as an alumna to volunteer for the workshop in 2016
Niamh Fitzgerald (2017)
Poppy de Raad (2017)
Analiese Bevan (2017)
Kiara du Toit (2018)
Casey Smith (2018)

Industry Leaders who have participated 
Maru Nihoniho (CEO of Metia Interactive)
Amy Harman (programmer at RocketWorkz) – also an alumnus
Brie Code (CEO/Creative Director of Truluvmedia)
Aleissia Leidacker (Interaction Director at MagicLeap)
Amy Potter (Community Manager at Letsplay.live)
Sarah Dixey (Art Director at PikPok)
Clélia Tran (Production Manager at Wingnut AR)