The 2013 Game Developer Gender Wage Gap

I’m reading through the latest digital edition of Game Developer Magazine which contains their annual survey.  The salary numbers overall weren’t concerning to me, until I scrolled down and saw the differences between the male and female survey respondents.  The next time someone tells me that men and women get paid equally for their talents in the game industry, I wanted something to link to them.  This is just plain disgusting.



This isn’t so bad right?  Female programmers are currently making 4.5% more annually than male programmers.  However, considering they only make up 4% of the entire field of programmers in the game industry, companies are probably paying them more to retain them.  I’m glad to see the few lady programmers we have in games aren’t underpaid.

However, expect things to get more grim.



Male artists make 29% more per year than female artists in the game industry.  Women represent 16% of the game industry’s artists, which is sadly a pretty decent number.



Male game designers make 23.6% more annually than female game designers, and men comprise 89% of the game industry’s designers.



The producer field doesn’t look so terrible.  It has the highest percentage of female representation at 23%.  Women still are underpaid compared to men though: 8.3% less.



Audio development is completely dominated by men.  96% of audio developers are male, and they make a whopping 65% more than women.



It’s starting to get a big redundant, but here you can see that men make 24.9% more than women per year in QA.


Finally, in business and legal we see that men make 31% more than women.  This is a broad field that includes Community Management, CEOs, HR, IT, and admin.  I suspect part of this discrepancy in wage is that HR, admin, and community management have a lot of female representation anecdotally while upper management is dominated by men at most game companies.

I’m sure there are more details that might make these numbers less damning.  For example, we all know that games have been long dominated by men and the industry is taking small steps to change that.  As a result, many of the women who answered the survey might be new to the game industry, might not be in as senior of roles as the men who responded.  However, I don’t think this changes the fact that we need to recruit and encourage more women at all levels of every organization — and we’re failing to do so.

Leadership: look at your organization.  Compare the salaries of the women to the men who work at your company, and align their salaries.  If all of your women are junior, evaluate them.  How long have they been junior?  Are they deserving of an increase in role, capabilities, and salary?  If you don’t have many women in various departments, recruit them.  Make an effort to keep your space positive and encouraging for women.  Consider that raising women up in your company means for more mentors in our industry for the young women who might be interested in working in games.  These numbers are disgusting and we see them year after year.  Who is out there working to change it?  Every studio should be proactive in solving this, because with numbers like these — why would women want to work in games?

These images are all from the April 2013 issue of Game Developer Magazine.


About Tami Baribeau

Lead Editor and co-founder of The Border House, feminist, gamer, lover of social media, technology, and virtual worlds. Pansexual, equestrian, dog lover, social game studio director and producer. Email me here and follow me on Twitter!
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23 Responses to The 2013 Game Developer Gender Wage Gap

  1. Robin Wilde says:

    That’s rather irritating. Not just from a gender equality perspective but also for quality of games perspective.

    I’m male, and I understand that 50% of the population is having what is probably a very different experience of life to me, one which I will never fully understand. However, the best opportunity for me to do so is by playing those experiences in games, which under the current balance of genders I’m unable to do.

  2. Austin says:

    I wonder if game developer magazine would be up for sharing the numbers of the gender breakdowns in each of the experience categories. I’d be really interested to see the 3-6 year groups especially, because that is where you should see the most parity between men and women; trying someone out for the first time essentially, their pay should be equal.

    • BourneApprox says:

      Agreed. These numbers aren’t particularly useful without being properly normalized for experience and other factors. Audio has the worst pay gap, but it also has 54% people with >6 years experience. In that field, it may be the case that the average is totally dominated by a bunch of older men, and that most of the women tend to be earlier in their careers. (Seriously? Only 4%? Gah!) Seeing the different age proportions themselves would be interesting, of course – is there an area of game production which tends to have a massive falloff in women as they progress throughout their career? Are there areas which are good at retention?

      It’s clear that the games industry has massive problems with the employment of women, but it’s important to pinpoint exactly what those problems are. This isn’t a good way to show the stats – it raises more opportunities for people to say “NU UH!” than making an airtight case for gender discrimination.

  3. Ava Avane Dawn says:

    Robin: You could also try talking to women! ;O Just kidding, I get your point. :)

    The numbers aren’t surprising, but good to have some references. Mostly I’m just surprised over how high the general figures are, in Sweden the general wage for people is like below 30000$!

  4. Melyanna says:

    @Ava: it isn’t just Sweden. I live and work in Italy and the general figures seem really high to me, too.

  5. Jonathan says:

    I really hope some journalist does a proper investigation into this. I do think it’s largely down to the long-term male dominance in the industry, but if there are companies paying women less than men in the same job, I’d like to see the problem being highlighted now.

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  7. Karen says:

    My partner has been in the game industry for the past 5 years. She an audio developer as well as a coder.

    She has routinely been bullied by the males in the same department as her for the past 6 months, given menial work to do. Yet spends half her time cleaning up their work.

    She was recently given a 2% pay increase, her first pay increase in 3 years. The lowest in the department. Yet in her last progress review they couldn’t find anything to fault her on, even though they seemed to try. Yet she was still scored as OT.

    We live in Europe and the lack of support for this is disgusting.

    I would hope that something like this could mark a change, but like everything before it, it will get ignored and the wheels will keep turning.

    • Jonathan says:

      That is absolutely disgusting. I know that the concern of random strangers doesn’t amount to much, but I really hope that things improve for your partner.

  8. Ardyvee says:

    I’ll join the other comments claiming for more data as I could justify the differences with more women working on lower-paying positions along with their reduced numbers, greatly affecting the average, while on the other hand there are more males that may or may not be on higher-paying positions and thus the few that receive really low wage don’t drag down the average as much.

    That is not to say that if the above is true maybe the industry needs to rethink it’s hiring practices (or maybe just any bias they might have… I’m a huge supporter of bringing whoever it’s best for the job).

    • Jeremy says:

      Assuming similar years experience, if women are winding up in lower paying positions than men, that is likely indicative of a problem in the hiring and/or promotion process. It would mean that women are being consistently overlooked and/or their contributions devalued.

  9. Rakaziel says:

    Interesting. Makes one wonder how far they extrapolate the interests of their ‘target audience’ from what they themselves want to oogle at. With so few women in the business there are probably simply not enough voices questioning them, and a good share may want to keep it that way.

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  11. Craig says:

    I want to know where those QA folks work because I’d love to make that much. :P

  12. nescire says:

    My personal experience would be in the engineering/programming section, and the lack of salary disparity seems in line with what I’ve seen. As for why the average skews slightly higher for females is hard to say; it might have to do with the sample size for females being so small and a good part of it being in senior positions.

    That 4% is kind of soul-crushing to look at even if it’s nothing new and not confined to the video game industry. The lack of women in computer engineering fields has been a recurring topic in geek communities like slashdot for the last decade, and there are no easy answers to this.

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  15. Hybrid says:

    No doubt the game industry has the same problems like every other industry that concerns the pay of women(like shown, not even denying it anymore).
    Too bad we can’t see the statistics of how long the women in each field already worked.

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  18. Ken K says:

    Cripes based on my gdc trip I’d hoped the numbers were getting better, lot of women there.
    I would suspect there is a higher representation in junior though so that might explain some of the discrepancy on pay as others have said- I just find the overall counts still rather sad. I’ve joked with friends about making a game credit drinking game based on women- something along the lines of take a big shot if she’s anything besides HR -_-. Should we look forward to a game we risk alcohol poisoning on?

    As far as concerns for ‘hiring the best person’- I think diversity of team should be considered a plus, and when you’re getting towards the ‘final few’ it’d seem likely you’d be splitting hairs to make the final choice anyway? It’d be one thing if you are looking for a graphics programmer specific to writing high end shaders or something, and only 5 people had the experience or something. It’s another when you’re looking for a junior programmer.

    I’m not sure how much of it to ‘blame’ on the company level (although everyone should take all reasonable steps)- since it seems to start much younger, I don’t think kids typically think about workplace environment too much when plotting their futures. It might drive some away from the industry once they reach there, but I think very few take the steps to start with. My wife did a career fair at my daughters school, very few of the girls were interested in actual development, even if they were gamers. I think we also need to (keep) work(ing) on the larger stereotype that (hardcore) games are just for boys or men who act like boys.

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