A diverse workforce is vital for both attracting and developing the very best talent and for forging a creative culture that breeds innovative, cutting edge ideas. Creativity and innovation are paramount to the success of businesses operating in the media and entertainment industry, to give them the competitive edge in a world where the average consumer has a plethora of other entertainment options available at the touch of a button.
However, some in the UK gaming industry are apparently lagging behind. According to the most recent UK gaming industry consensus:
- 70% of the games development workforce is male;
- Only 10% are BAME; and
- 12% of the workforce (and 20% of directors) went to independent/fee-paying schools (7% is the national average).
The impact of a lack of diversity in a creative role such as games development is blatant: it is reflected in the stories and characters in video games. Games developers and publishers cannot expect to create exciting and different new games that appeal to a wide range of consumers if they are hiring from a pool of candidates who all have similar backgrounds.
The pool of candidates is narrow: 87% of the people working in the games industry are educated to at least undergraduate degree level (in other creative industries, the average is 57%).
In addition, developers and publishers tend to employ people who have studied creative subjects, the likes of which are encouraged and invested in at independent and fee-paying schools but which are usually the first to face cuts in state-funded schools and academies (as has been the case during the pandemic).
The effect is that fewer state school educated pupils, particularly those from lower social-economic backgrounds, go on to study a creative subject at university and do not gain the qualifications that are generally required to enter the UK games industry.
If games developers and publishers want to encourage diversity in their industry, they need to actively reach out to young people at academies, particularly in areas where a high percentage of students are BAME or from lower social-economic backgrounds. Those who work in the games industry can help to educate teenagers on the routes into the industry so that they can start working towards their careers at age 15, in the same way as their privately-educated peers do. Mentoring programmes, open days, work experience schemes and workshops are all ways to help make a difference.
Diversity is a top-of-the-list priority across many employers in the media and entertainment space right now, largely due to the recent Black Lives Matter and gender pay movements. From an employment law perspective, businesses should be ensuring they are promoting diversity across the board. As well as considering diversity in hiring decisions, this could mean introducing diversity and equal opportunities policies, setting targets in relation to diversity and ensuring staff are adequately trained to deal with related issues (including awareness of discrimination law).