The Hypersexualization of Women in the Gaming Community

Carly Belloff's picture

It’s no secret that there is a lack of gender diversity in the technology sector. Women make up only 17% of the technical workforce at Google and 15% at Facebook. At the 2015 CES (Consumer Electronics Show) in Las Vegas there was only one female speaker out of the never-ending conveyer belt of male speakers, yet 89% of the decisions to buy consumer electronics are from women, so the lack of female representation in an industry where women are significant marketing targets shows how ignorant the industry is. However, I see this lack of female representation in the tech sector, specifically in developer positions, to be most problematic in the gaming community, as women account for only 11 percent of game designers and 3 percent of programmers.

As a result of this lack of diversity in the gaming industry, I believe that women are degraded and objectified within video game characters as well. Since males dominate the video game industry, they are more likely to create avatars and characters that represent themselves or their alter egos. However, when creating female characters, they are generally portrayed inaccurately and stereotyped, as male workers create what they perceive to know, despite its accuracy. For this reason, when women make their rare appearance in video games, they are often portrayed with exaggerated sexualized characteristics, illustrating them more as props, objects, and decoration as opposed to factual characters. For example, in the video game GTA San Andreas, women are almost always portrayed as stripers. These women do not contribute anything to the storyline of the game, but instead are used as props and backdrops, as they are always seen in the background of the game half naked walking around in high heels. I believe this is a huge problem because this can lead to women being sexualized outside the game world as well.

Although it is clear that there is a gender diversity problem within the tech industry, there is in fact a group working to make Michigan a state leader in terms of recruiting and inspiring women working in technology. For example, The Michigan Council of Women in Technology (MCWT) began in 2000 and they not only support Michigan’s female IT workforce, but the MCWT’s 700-plus members are also focused on numerous outreach and mentoring programs meant to get girls and young women interested in STEM careers. The MCWT is especially interested in connecting with girls in grades 3 through 8 to build awareness of the options available when it comes to a career in tech.

However, it’s one thing to acknowledge the problem, but another to correct it, so I am curious if the class has any input on this gender diversity issue in the technology industry:

Do you believe the efforts by the MCWT could be successful in solving this gender diversity problem in the tech industry?

Do you agree that the objectification of women and gender stereotypes that exist in video games coincide with the lack of female workers in the gaming industry?

Have you noticed any stereotypes towards women in any of the video games you play?