Spotlight Features

‘Women Don’t Play’ Confronts Gender Disparity in the Tech Industry

Women Don't Play interviewer Emma Raz
Emma Raz of NumberEight conducts an interview for Women Don't Play.

Two gaming and ad industry innovators are collaborating on a website that helps women gain prominence in the gaming, advertising, and tech industries.

In honor of International Women’s Day, which took place on March 8, audience intelligence platform NumberEight and in-game audio pioneer Odeeo on April 4 announced the launch of Women Don’t Play, a website dedicated to elevating women in tech. The new site offers a platform to host interviews, resources, and tools for women in technology to promote gender equity and diversity. Women Don’t Play is also useful for men seeking the same goals.

Women now comprise 28% of the tech industry workforce. That percentage is an increase of 34.4% at the largest U.S. companies, including Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft.

Only 15% of engineering jobs are held by women, despite women holding 44% of STEM-related bachelor’s degrees as of 2022. The goal of Women Don’t Play is to equip women getting into tech-related roles and fields with inspiration, practical guidance, and direction for how to set themselves up for success.

“This project grew as a natural progression of an initiative we launched last year featuring a number of women in the ad tech and gaming industries,” said Emma Raz, commercial director at NumberEight.

As part of this project, she discovered the need and desire of these female leaders to help other women entering the industry. The two partnering companies plan to continue to add to the site’s content throughout the year.

“We want it to be a resource for everyone working in the industry,” she said.

Idea Sparked Call to Action

In fostering the idea for an ongoing springboard for the cause, Odeeo co-founders Amit Monheit and Elad Stern realized that gender equality is not just about hiring equal numbers of men and women. Instead, they wanted to encourage more women to start their tech careers early in their education by developing the skills to work in engineering, product, or data science.

“We work with fantastic women leaders across our advertiser, media, and gaming partners and want to give them an opportunity to share their experience,” they agreed in discussing the website’s launch with TechNewsWorld.

The best way to get more women into technical and leadership roles is for them to have visible role models. Women Don’t Play is a great platform to show the diverse range of women shaping the future of gaming, tech, and advertising, according to Odeeo VP of Product Liat Barer.

“There is a need for sustained focus to be given to encourage women pursuing careers in STEM and gaming. International Women’s Day is important as an initiative. But what about the other 364 days a year? We need to provide resources all year long to help all women get to the next phases of their careers,” she told TechNewsWorld.

Double Meaning Gives Serious Intent

The website’s name came from a double meaning, according to Raz. First, it is a play on the stereotype that gamers are young men.

“The majority of mobile gamers are actually women of all ages, and the gap is getting smaller and smaller on all other platforms,” she told TechNewsWorld. “The second is the more colloquial use of the phrase, suggesting that women ‘don’t play around’ when it comes to their careers, leadership, and growth opportunities.”

Finally, women do not mess and cannot afford to, in all honesty, when it comes to supporting and lifting other women.

“We need each other. We need to be strong for one another, as this is something we have to do for ourselves and for the future generation of women to come,” offered Raz.

Judging from the initial feedback about the new website, the intent behind the platform is hitting its mark. According to the founders, they have received positive feedback from visitors and the participants and strong enthusiasm from other industry leaders who plan to participate in future rounds of interviews.

Advice and Mentoring for Women

Recommendations coming firsthand from tech executives interviewed for the project provide a focus on providing resources for networking, mentorship, and career development. The goal of the interviews is to reveal tangible ways that women can mentor other women.

The approach is also successful because it exposes opportunities women should pursue to advance their careers. The website’s content also highlights the best practices for creating more equitable workplaces, agreed Monheit and Stern.

“By providing advice from women who have ‘been there and done that,’ up-and-coming women in the industry have access to examples of people who have proved it can be done,” added Raz.

Resources on the site also offer insight on how to get into the industry, and this removes another barrier to entry for women, she noted.

DEI a Moving Target

Given the push from the current U.S. administration for equity and inclusion, conditions are not changing quite as rapidly as hoped regarding gender equity and diversity in gaming, advertising, and tech, as these industries vary in their approaches to gender diversity.

For instance, while they are all taking action, some are moving faster than others, and it remains an ongoing battle, especially in light of other dynamics in the workforce — such as returning to the office and restructurings — agreed all four of the websites founding partners.

“There has been progress, but representation of women in leadership and technical roles remains an opportunity for most companies,” they said.

Progress Challenged by Societal Norms

The unique website hopefully will inspire more young women to pursue their passion in tech and turn it into sustainable and successful careers. In turn, that will show tech career-bound entrants that there is very much space for women in this industry, observed Monheit and Stern.

“Visibility is crucial to inspire women to pursue their career goals and make it clear to everyone that women have an important place in these industries,” Raz said. “One of the key phrases I hear from my team is that what they find most useful and inspiring is just watching how I handle certain situations. At the end of the day, I think we all get inspired by people.”

To reach the top, more women need to start coming in at the entry-level first. However, there are also women mid-way through their career who face barriers in breaking the ‘glass ceiling’ of C-suite or other high-profile positions, observed Odeeo’s Barer.

Sometimes this is due to a lack of societal support or the weight of societal expectations with regard to gender roles. In this case, Barer explained that those women need guidance in defying societal expectations or accessing support when needed.

“The more we normalize women working in high-profile tech-related roles, the more women we will see doing so. It will no longer be the exception but the rule,” Barer said.

Closing the Gender Disparity Gap in Tech

Recent progress in growing the number of STEM-related women graduates is promising. But it has not addressed the problem further down the pipeline of getting women working in the tech industry.

Even as women attain greater technical skills, they still face the need for cultural progress in many tech and gaming organizations. Meaning more women in leadership, more women in technical roles, and a management focus on creating equitable workplaces.

Often these cultural changes need to start at the top of organizations, echoed the four Women Don’t Play associates.

Jack M. Germain

Jack M. Germain has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2003. His main areas of focus are enterprise IT, Linux and open-source technologies. He is an esteemed reviewer of Linux distros and other open-source software. In addition, Jack extensively covers business technology and privacy issues, as well as developments in e-commerce and consumer electronics. Email Jack.

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