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Gender Gap and the Game Developer Salary Survey
by Patrick Miller on 04/04/13 03:19:00 pm   Expert Blogs   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

So the April issue of Game Developer is out, which means -- you guessed it -- it's time for the yearly Game Developer Salary Survey. And unsurprisingly, coming off of plenty of gender-centered happenings at GDC last week (which were, in turn, preceded by gender-centered happenings elsewhere in tech the week before), a few folks cracked open the Salary Survey to discover that women in the game industry are generally paid significantly less than their male counterparts in any given development discipline.

First off: As the editor of the magazine, I'm really happy to see that people are paying attention to gender-related issues in the game industry, and I'm doubly happy to see that our work on the magazine is helping draw attention to it. (No one writes letters to the editor any more!) It's worth noting that these issues aren't particularly new, either; from what I can recall of previous salary surveys, the gender pay gap has stuck around in the games industry for quite some time. So: Props to those who saw these numbers and got "irate" (in the words of one Twitter user) -- you're not the only ones.

Second: It's worth pointing out that the notable exception is programming, where female devs are paid a few thousand more -- but given the fact that women programmers represented only 4% of surveyed programmers overall, and 2011's survey had women programmers making $10,000 less than men, I'm inclined to think that this year's result is an outlier rather than indicative of an industrywide trend; the raw data indicates that those numbers came from a pool of 494 male programmers and 22 female programmers. Which leads me to my next point...

Third: Upon seeing the rather shocking pay disparity between men and women in the games industry, many people asked to see how the male/female breakdown related to years of experience in the industry to see whether the male wage advantage was due to having more male devs with more years of experience than female devs -- the idea being, presumably, that we want to know whether the game industry is paying men more than an equally-experienced woman, or whether the game industry is paying men more because there are more men with 6+ years of experience in the industry than women.

In other words: Is the gender gap due to sexist biases that devalue women devs, or is it due to the relatively scarce number of experienced women devs in the industry?

The real answer, of course, is probably "both" -- but I digress. We compared experience levels to gender and discipline (using only data for U.S.-based salaried devs, mind you -- the salary survey itself uses worldwide data unless otherwise specified), and here's what we found. 

Across all disciplines, the men we surveyed are more likely to have more experience. 623 male devs have over six years of industry experience, 426 devs have 3-6 years, and 284 have less than three years. Women were mostly in the 3-6 year range (77), then >6 years (50), then less than three years (46). So, yes, a higher proportion of highly-experienced male devs means we'd expect higher salaries for men than women overall. To me, this seems to reflect what we as an industry already know; it's not a particularly hospitable industry for women (as indicated by the meager gender ratio), meaning they're less likely to stick around than men are.

Production seems to be the most viable long-term career discipline for women. Production had over twice as many women respondents with over six years of experience than any other discipline (19). Interestingly enough, women with three years of experience or less are more often found in art and animation (17). Women devs in the 3-6 year range, meanwhile, fell all across the spectrum; 22 producers, 17 artist/animators, 15 designers, 11 programmers, 10 in biz/legal, 2 in Q/A, and 0 audio (audio and QA comprise our two smallest respondent pools, so no surprise there).

The sample size is small. The respondent pool we're using for this post (U.S.-based salaried devs) has the same gender ratio as the overall salary pool -- roughly 11% women. When we survey a relatively small population (game developers) and then slice that data further and further (only women, salaried, in the US, segregated by discipline and level of experience) the numbers are only going to get smaller and smaller, meaning it's harder to draw very specific trends.

Anyway, thanks for reading. Now, back to work on the May issue! And stay tuned -- we're planning to tackle this topic in more depth in the future.

Patrick Miller
Editor, Game Developer 


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Comments


Aaron San Filippo
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I may have missed it - but what *were* the actual results of the gender-based pay comparison when accounting for years of experience? Did they come out about even - or are you saying the sample size is too small to make meaningful conclusions?

Patrick Miller
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Sample size is way too small for an adjusted comparison. Original data is in the April issue -- thanks, Hunter. ;)

Hunter Mayer
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I believe the article you seek is within the April issue that is being sold at http://gdmag.com/issue/2013/April

Aaron San Filippo
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It'd be cool if next year's survey made some meaningful experience-adjusted comparisons there. It's unfortunate that Rock Paper Shotgun (and inevitably others) have jumped on the raw, unadjusted statistics to mean that there is a massive gender pay gap. I don't doubt there is a pay gap, but comparing these raw numbers without accounting for experience is pretty meaningless.

If I'm reading the stats correctly and tallying up the participant numbers, around 46% of male devs surveyed have 6+ years of experience, while only 28% of females.

This seems like the real story here - we're not retaining women developers.

On the other hand, with such a small sampling, it's possible that experienced women developers simply didn't take the survey. It would be great to see how these experience ratios compare with previous years' surveys.

Kenneth Blaney
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If the average was 84,337 USD (same source, number from a different Gamasutra article) for a US based game and women earned on average 10,000 USD less than men, then we can conclude that women earn about 88 cents on the dollar. As bad as this is (I make no excuse for it) this IS better than the national average by about 11 percentage points.

As much as we want to say that the video game industry is keeping women out or otherwise undervaluing them, the sad truth is that women have it worse in most other industries. That is, this is a larger societal problem, not just a problem of one particular industry.

Patrick Miller
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Hi Kenneth,

You're not really comparing the right numbers.

US industrywide average (men AND women) was $84,337. The $10,000 gap you mention is specifically referring to 2011's gender disparity in programmers; 2012's salary survey lists different numbers for different disciplines, not one number overall. For most disciplines, the pay gap is as bad or worse than the 2012 average (81c on the dollar, according to http://www.npr.org/blogs/money/2013/02/05/171196714/the-jobs-with
-the-biggest-and-smallest-pay-gaps-between-men-and-women).

Kenneth Blaney
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Fair enough... I must have read it too quickly and misunderstood it. That is I some how misunderstood it as "women get paid more in programming, but that is a statistical outlier as they make $10,000 less in other areas".

Hearing that women are up to .81 on the dollar is good news. I thought it was around 80% and was a little surprised to see it was .77 on the dollar when I googled it. Either way, my point is not "women don't have it bad in games any more" it was "women still have it bad in general".

I don't have access to the actual data. What did the wage gaps tend to be (understanding that there is a self selection bias)?

John Flush
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I hate to cause another gender gap discussion, but has no one ever calculated in the possibility that for one gender this might be a 'second' income, which means that gender might be more willing to take a lower wage than a main 'bread winner'?

Economics here. If the demand for pay is lower from the supplying pool, wouldn't that result in lower wages? Article after article I never see this as a significant consideration in the compensation. Was such a consideration already proved insignificant to the point no one ever brings it up?

Joshua Kasten
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Great article, Patrick, but I'm not understanding how you read the experience demographics to say that most women who enter the industry leave after a few years. Unless this is a Tread that has continued over the past 5 years or so--which it may, I don't know--I would take it more to mean that more women are entering the industry than they were before.

Of course I have some confirmation bias, as I've long assumed that the industry would start dealing with these issues more consistently when we had more women working as devs--so I've been expecting statistics to show that.

Patrick Miller
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I'm basing that read on the fact that 6+ years was not the largest population of female devs like it was for male devs. Even if rates of women entering the field are higher than they were before, you would expect women to be more strongly represented in the 6+ years category (since for most people, a career lasts much longer than six years).

My explanation for this is that it seems like women leave the industry after a few years. In order for your explanation to be true (it's not that women are leaving, just that greater numbers of women are entering now than they were before), we'd have to see a staggeringly dramatic rise in entry-level women devs over the last few years. Considering the gender ratio in previous salary surveys has pegged the industry at roughly around 10-11%, I think my explanation is more accurate -- though you're correct in that this is simply data that doesn't tell a story on its own.

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Zach Grant
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Hasn't it been shown that men tend work longer hours than women on average, because women are often the primary care giver of children and they must prioritize children over work. If you work more, you get more done. If you get more done, you are likely valued more by your company and given a higher salary.

Also, men are much more likely to ask for a raise.

Stats I'd really like to see are single women's pay vs males pay.

Kevin Weatherall
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I'm currently reading a book about this. Apparently women are generally NOT paid much less, and sometimes paid more, when you take into account all the factors that determine how much you get paid. Hours per week is one. Years of experience is another. Danger of the job is another, although I doubt that matters for the game industry.

Apparently a lot of the "women get paid X cents in the dollar compared to men" statistics don't take these factors into account. They just compare job title to income for men vs. women.

Elisabeth Beinke-Schwartz
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"Also, men are much more likely to ask for a raise."

This may partially be because women are seen as 'overly aggressive' if they ask for raises as compared to men where it's seen as 'taking initiative.'

See: http://www.npr.org/2011/02/14/133599768/ask-for-a-raise-most-wome
n-hesitate

Jonathan Lin
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I'm interested if there's a average work hours per week survey specifically for the game industry for this topic.

Jen MacLean
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Your arguments are flawed, Josh, because they're based on dangerous assumptions. (Insert the old saw about assumptions here....)

First, speaking as a working mother, being a caregiver doesn't mean you work fewer hours. You may work them at different times-working from 7 AM to 4:30 PM, for example, but you're still working as many hours. Working parents often split caregiving duties (one parent drops off at daycare, the other picks up), so assuming that a woman is a) the primary caregiver and b) working fewer hours is a bad assumption.

Second, working more hours does not mean more work done. We all know people who spend much of their work day on Facebook, Twitter, etc. Some people work well in an office, some people work better at home. Hours spent in an office does not equal actual productive hours does not equal work done.

Finally, "single" is irrelevant these days. Many "single" people have caregiver responsibilities for other family members (including caring for aging parents, for example). They may live as a larger family and choose to remain legally unmarried because of backwards tax laws. They may be single parents.

Robert Schmidt
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I would be more interested in the trends. Is the issue improving, getting worse, stagnating? I would also like to compare those numbers with the percentage of women graduating from relevant schools. If the number of women graduating is increasing by 1% and the number of women employed is increasing by 0.1% we have a problem. I suspect that we are seeing the same challenge as all other STEM careers so that would also be an interesting comparison. If you tell me that there is a wage disparity between men and women in the game industry I won't be surprised. If you tell me that situation isn't improving I would be.

Evan Combs
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I agree, there are a lot of aspects of the difference in pay that to my knowledge have not been studied, so that we can get a deeper understanding of the topic other than women are paid less on average. Just saying women are paid less, doesn't really help to understand why they are paid less or how to most reasonably fix the problem.

Adam Bishop
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Women are paid less because of sexism. That might not be the fun answer but it's the true answer.

Jess Groennebech
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Adam: If you were right, there would be a small percentage of gamecompany owners (as seen in other industries) who wouldn't care about sexism but that took advantage of that "fact" that women were underpaid and only or mostly used female workers because it would be cheaper and would therefore generate a higher profit for the owner.

Since that isn't the case, something is wrong in your statement and since there is two things that can change in the statement, it's either 1. women are not underpaid or 2. they are underpaid but not because of sexism.

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Joost Bos
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Jess, taking advantage of the fact that women are usually underpaid anyway, and perpetuating that in your own company, IS sexism.

E Zachary Knight
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Thanks for posting this update. I was just talking about this over at Game Politics. Glad to see that it was on your mind too. I just wish we had stronger data and could alctually pull the experience to pay comparisons.

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Jess Groennebech
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In the company I work for (I'm in HR), men report 3% higher salaries while women report 2% lower salaries. I believe that's a general thing although I'm unable to provide the actual data (it's internal).

/I should mention that I'm Scandinavian, it may vary per culture as well.

Jennifer Jones
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Can we stop posting these bullshit "inequality" articles until we get some actual valid data to support any of the wild theories we throw around? Every time I read something about gender salary inequality I can't help but want to throw my monitor out the window since it is written by someone who doesn't know how to correctly interpret the data.
Terrible article and sadly not the first I've read on this same survey coming to the same flawed conclusions.

Addison Martinez
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How would you interpret the data?

Eric McConnell
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I agree, a lot of these inequality articles are lazy and just written to grab attention. Drawing these correlations is something I'd expect from Fox News. There are many books on economic statistics that explain this subject in detail. Like a post says above, woman generally have an advantage when entering a technical field. But hey, in the broad data of people writing in an open survey, woman made less. Clearly the only explanation is all us men are pigs, video games is a Good Ol' Boys Club and it's the 1950's.

Addison Martinez
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Great article.

One question. Why are women were paid more in programming even though the numbers still point out that men had more experience?

Is it that they are just in hot demand/ companies trying to satisfy diversity requirements and overpaying for the higher qualified women?

Patrick Miller
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Most likely a statistical anomaly. As I wrote in the post, those averages were derived from almost 500 male programmers vs. 22 female programmers.

Kenneth Blaney
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With a sample size of 22 people, we are looking at a margin of error somewhere in the realm of 20%. So varying from $10,000 down to $3,000 up is statistically likely. It would be great if they could somehow add another 100 or so women to the study (regardless of the number of men they would have to add to get those 100 women).

Johanna Schober
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Slightly off, topic, but...
Dear prior posters,
I have to hand out some flattery here: I really enjoy reading these comments!
You all seem to seriously think about the topic and lay out your arguments respectfully. I don't agree with all of you, but usually whenever I read any slightly feminist-themed article, the trolls take over immediately and make any discussion impossible.
That's really different here! Kudos!

Mike Higbee
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There nothing really feminist about this article, it's more about interpretation of data and statistics. Unfortunately as Patrick previously posted there is too small a sample size to really come to any conclusions.
It would be nice to have some actual hard data to back either side or neither side of that argument instead of personal anecdotes for a change though.

Addison Martinez
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I think that any attempt (whether it is flawed or not) is great at shedding light on this issue. I personally know several female developers who struggle to be accepted despite their portfolio.

Tommy Hearns
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I would attribute it to guys just tending more towards video games than women. How often do you hear about a group of women getting together for a LAN party? I think women just don't get into that nerdy, D&D mentality like guys can and do. Look at women Math vs CS Majors in college. Far more in math than CS. Why is that? Colleges are supposed to be the most equal/accepting/liberal places around, so I don't think you can throw out the sexist argument there. I think women just don't want to be associated with the "nerd" computer stigma and part of the stigma is playing video games. I would like to just point out the author saying the sample sizes are too small to see trends, but calls the game industry inhospitable for women just a few sentences above. Sounds like a judgement call to me. Why does everyone feel this need to find some sort of victim status to rally around? No one can ever just be happy with the great life we have. There always needs to be some "problem" that needs fixing. Pretty soon its all just going to be background noise because everyone is yelling about their "important" activist cause.

Mike Higbee
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The "nerd" trend is all the rage as of late (thank you Big Bang Theory ick).
Now it also raises the argument of do people male or female want to just be perceived as a "nerd" or do they actively participate in the culture or pursue careers in such fields as you listed.
What I think would be some interesting statistics would be male/female comparison in tech fields during the dot-com bubble compared to now. See if it's a sex issue selecting more financially secure careers vs more risky, and what better time period would there be than then?

Isvar Horning
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They are tending not to technical jobs, because women have a history as housekeepers and caregivers. Not so long ago women in universitys were rare or women in every field of work outside the house were abnormal.
And even today modern media suggests that tech, games and science is for males, and women have to be interested in fashion, diets, and when it comes to a field of study - art or literature.
If you had grown up with everything around you suggesting that, because of your gender, you are not as good in math, and not good at tech or science, and not good with computers, and games are something for the 'other' gender - then I wonder how that would affect you.
You think women are afraid of a "nerd" stigma? Try again.

Greg Zapp
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I'm a little disappointed that these numbers are being presented at all, even with the disclaimers. What were the questions being asked that the survey was designed to answer?

Robert Walker
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"In other words: Is the gender gap due to sexist biases that devalue women devs, or is it due to the relatively scarce number of experienced women devs in the industry?"

Can I just disagree with the whole premise here? I've worked at and assisted in hiring for several places, not to mention having a good number of contacts in the industry in lead positions that have also done hiring. Not that one can rely solely on anecdotal evidence, but I refuse to believe that the greater percentage of the industry is comprised of men with a chip on their shoulders when it comes to paying women.

Very often in the gaming industry what I see is a position gets put out there with no indication of how much the company is going to pay (intentionally), and the interviewee comes in with the figure they would like to get paid. There's a top-line budget for how much the company is willing to pay for said position, but it doesn't mean that if someone asks for less, the company goes "ah, I know you asked for 60k, but we're prepared to pay you up to 70k." If the interviewee gets the position and asks for less, they'll be given less. If the interviewee asks for more than the top-line, either they'll be denied the position, or if their interview was amazing, some negotiation can occur. But nowhere in any of that does anyone I know, myself included, consciously or subconsciously go "You know, this is a woman, she needs to make less."

And as an aside: From a sample size this small, there's no way you can draw a meaningful conclusion on a topic such as this. There are way too many pieces of data missing.

Kenneth Blaney
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Not, strictly speaking, true on that last part. A small sample size gives us a high margin of error when talking about the women, so in any area where (average men's pay * 1-margin or error) > (women's pay * 1+margin of error) we can, with a sufficient level of confidence, claim that women are earning less than men.

As to why that might be happening... women working fewer hours, generalized sexism of society, specific sexism in games, women getting lesser raises, women leaving the industry, men changing jobs more, etc... we would need to look at a different study.

Kadayi Polokov
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Out of curiosity, how did you factor in post maternity workers in the survey? It's not uncommon for women coming back from maternity leave to opt to do reduced hours/days for the first few years to work around child care/nurseries etc. Was this taken into account at all in the numbers or did you disregard them entirely?

John Owens
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Sheryl Sandberg said that women should lean in i.e. that women earn less not because of sexism but because they're naturally risk averse and therefore don't demand (like some men) the higher salaries.

I've certainly experienced that when hiring a female artist who was then unhappy with her salary even though I didn't negotiate with her and just accepted what she initially wanted.

However while I think that is probably something that applies more to females it certainly applies to some men too.

I certainly don't think it's sexism. An employer would be a fool to discriminate based on anything other than merit.

Kenneth Blaney
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An issue with this is that women are generally seen as "aggressive" as opposed to men "taking initiative".

http://www.npr.org/2011/02/14/133599768/ask-for-a-raise-most-wome
n-hesitate

So the problem is, in part, a larger societal issue of how women are seen and/or see themselves.

Eric Salmon
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Kenneth, is there a way to see the actual video footage/data? I respect their conclusions, but all they mentioned as a common factor was a script. There are a lot of nonverbal cues as well as verbal cues beyond mere word choice that are going to color perceptions in an interview. I'd be really interested to see the actual footage and reactions.

Neil Sorens
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"it's not a particularly hospitable industry for women (as indicated by the meager gender ratio)"

Does this mean that the education field (and college admissions as well) are inherently hostile to men, because they have a significantly higher percentage of females in them?

Mathieu MarquisBolduc
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"Across all disciplines, the men we surveyed are more likely to have more experience"
"they're (woman) less likely to stick around than men are."

You dont provide anything to support this assertion. Could it instead mean that this industry is attracting more women than it used to?

Besides, as you yourself concludes, the number of repondants isnt even large enough to make any meaningful statistics. 22 females programmer isnt even enough to make an average you can trust with any meaningful degree of statistical confidence.

Jen MacLean
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Here's an interesting article from the Harvard Business Review. They studied CFOs, and found that while women tend to start at the same or slightly higher salaries for the CFO position, over time male CFO salaries significantly outpace those of women. The article also gives some recommendations on counteracting the trend.

http://hbr.org/2013/05/ending-the-wage-gap/ar/1

You could draw interesting comparisons to the games industry; if men are more likely to move to a new company, for example, they may get higher salaries because of it.


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