Female women of the opposite gender

It is true that there are more women working in game development in Japan than there are in Europe or America. I guess this may have something to do with the fact that games are more of an accepted phenomenon in society than in the West, where, often with good cause, it is still the prerogative of the teenage male or the young adult male professional.
That said, sexual equality seems to have passed by Japan without making much of an impression. Women still face work floor discrimination, sexual harassment, unequal pay and a very low glass ceiling on the career ladder. Women are often regarded as temporary workers until they get married and become housewives and mothers for the rest of their lives, so why invest time and money in them? It would seem that a lot of women seem to foster this view, many of them on the look out for a financially attractive husband to willingly drag them away from their working lives. This makes it all the harder for those women intent on building a career for themselves.

The games industry isn't quite as stale and old-fashioned as many other businesses and is often quite more relaxed in certain areas where, say, a financial institution would enforce the traditions of business. Apart from the usual roles in which one would expect to find women, like administration, PR and HR, you will often find many women in actual development. Though programmers are still rare, but not unheard of, many women fill the roles of designers (artists), planners (designers) and producers or APs. The sight of a woman on the work floor doesn't result in a geek-testosterone fuelled embarassment of faffing about as seems the case in a lot of Western development houses. They are as accepted a part of the project as anyone else.
In more business oriented roles they are often still not taken seriously. Imagine a female manager meeting with clients only for them to address all their comments and queries to her male assistant. It happens.

I have not yet met any female foreigners working in development other than localisation. I have had the pleasure of working with many female Japanese developers and I can honestly say that such a mixed company does nothing for the overall geek levels of a group. But then, women can get away with carrying Pokemon handbags, whereas it means instant death for someone like me.

All in all Japan can teach the West a lot about attracting female developers, in the same way the West has a lot to teach Japan about sexual politics.


  1. Descriptive commentary on facts about women working in games over there. The blog seems to be quite matter-of-fact rather than having a strong personal voice, is this intentional? :) Do women lack ambition, that there are fewer at the top? I can only name Mie Kumagai on Skies of Arcadia as a major name in gaming, and that's only from and EDGE article on the topic of women in games.

  2. I'm sorry if I sound too authoritive. All my blog posts are highly subjective and only based on personal experience or observation. I'll try to address this in future posts!

    It is true there are very few women in top positions over here. I know, for example, of only 1 female CEO of a gamedev.

    I guess some women lack ambition, marriage still being held up as something to strive for beyond anything else, but ambitious women have a hard time in Japan. Apart from not being taken serious in business they have little opportunity to change their siuation. "The nail that sticks out gets hammered down" and all that.
    So yes, even though quite a lot of women work in development, very few make it very high up the ladder.

  3. Har, the title for this post alone is worth the RSS being captured.

  4. I recall a nubmer of Japanese women in the anime industry who remain character designers even though they've got the experience to be directors. Heck, their names are highly renowned and these womens' names are major pluses to have when trying to pitch your project to broadcasters.

    They enjoy drawing and all the scheduling and directoral duties took them away from being in the part of the production process they wanted to be in.

    Sega did a neat experiment on Dreamcast called Napple Tale. Sega tried to staff that project entirely with females.

    Project Management has become increasingly female dominated in the US in my experience. When I interviewed for various Associate Producer positions, most of my interviewers were women.

    Honestly, I think it's just a perception of the hobby as a whole.
    Girl plays video games and reads comic books in Japan? She's normal, even if she reads Shonen Jump(aimed at boys 12-19.)

    Girl plays video games and reads comic books in America? She must be some wierdo or geek.


  5. This is good to know. :) I'm a 3d artist (working in games in Switzerland at the moment) and would love to live abroad someday. Japan is one of my (if not the) top choices, but I was wondering what it was like for us female developers over there... Thanks so much for this blog, it is full of very useful tips and insights!