Female Ranks Growing But Still Small in Game World

pig-gender-flatAlthough a greater percentage of women are reporting income from game audio this year, even after accounting for the lower average number of years of experience in the game audio industry, women still lag substantially behind men in this field.

The figures were released as part of the 2016 Game Audio Industry Survey fielded by the producers of GameSoundCon, the annual industry conference taking place in Los Angeles Sept. 27-28.

The 10.4% of women reporting gamesound income in 2016 compares to 7% in 2015 and 3.5% in 2014. GameSoundCon executive producer Brian Schmidt characterizes the difference in total income as “equivalent to approximately 2.1 years of experience; That is, the ‘cost’ of being female in game audio is approximately the equivalent of having 2.1 fewer years of experience in the game audio industry.”

Schmidt said that in the wake of the notorious “Gamergate” incident that flared-up just prior to the 2015 GameSoundCon, he wanted to determine whether the pay discrepancy was a factor of gender bias “or some other factor.” His group hired professional statistician, Dr. Mary Siegrist, PhD, of IMSA Consulting to analyze the raw data.

Siegrist determined that lower income correlated pretty dependably with tenure. But that was not the total picture.

Earnings data by gender in video game audio industry

Source: 2016 Game Audio Industry Survey

The analysis, which explored results for both salaried and freelance staff, concludes that while total income has a positive correlation with experience — meaning the longer you work in the gaming industry the more likely your income will also increase — “females never do catch up with males,” Siegrist found.

“Females earn less than males regardless of the length of time working in the game industry,” Siegrist reports, equating the disparity to a chronic 2.15 years of experience.

 The study, which investigated many angles of working in game audio, requested total income, including part-time pay, freelance pay, staff salaries and monies staffers earned “on the side.” The study included only those making $1,000 or more per year (to weed out “hobbyists”) and those for whom game audio was not the primary source of income.

Interestingly, among the freelance population the gender discrepancy was “insignificant,” which would seem to indicate the bias is somewhat corporate/systemic.

“Although there is certainly good news in the increasing participation of women in game audio,  a ‘gender gap’ exists in game audio,” the study concluded, finding “highly compensated and very highly compensated women are significantly underrepresented.”

 Among possible causes are:

  • Women are paid less than men, systemically (general gender bias, non-specific to game sound)

  • Highly compensated women were less likely to report their income than highly compensated men

  • Men were more likely to exaggerate their income

  • Women were more likely to underestimate their income

  • Some other unknown bias or artifact of the survey itself GameSoundCon takes place at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel.

For more details, read the GameSoundCon post about the study. The GameSoundCon conference takes place at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel.

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