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As regards 45% of video game players in the US are women, but only about 30% of game developers identify as female. This is why League of Legends creator Riot Games and Girls who code have worked together to try to promote gender balance in the industry.
And that’s why Riot Games — whose titles are among the most played in the world — is training more than 60 girls in online programs this summer in a program that teaches them to code, make games and express their activist spirit. The company sees training a pipeline of girls as important in the gaming industry, where sexism issues – including some at riot yourself – have been in the news.
Girls who code is an international non-profit organization dedicated to closing the gender gap in technology. The organization has reached more than 300,000 girls in the US, Canada, UK and India. About 50% of the girls served are black, Latinx, or low-income.
“When we transformed our signature Summer Immersion Program into a fully virtual experience in 2020, we knew we needed to step up our efforts to make our students feel welcome and made it our top priority to serve the most vulnerable girls,” says Tarika Barrett. , the CEO of Girls Who Code, in an email to GamesBeat. “We are pleased to report that it worked, and in 2021 we served more than 5,000 students, half of them Black, Latinx and low-income, around the world. During this experience, Riot Games was a great partner: the program was adapted to a virtual classroom, our students felt at home and brought them in contact with different mentors. Students in the Riot classroom can truly see themselves as future women in gaming technology by the end of the program, which is a win for our girls, our organization and the gaming community.
A summer program
Through the free clubs program, Girls Who Code reaches young women at the most critical point in the pipeline, equipping them to use computer science to influence their communities and providing a sisterhood of supportive peers and mentors to help them. persevere and succeed.
Sue Min-Koh, a Girls Who Code program manager at Riot, has been with the Los Angeles company for nine years, and about half of that time she’s in the social impact group called Karma. Riot started collaborating with Girls Who Code in 2017. When they started talking, Min-Koh felt a lot of alignment with the goals of both Riot’s social impact program and Girls Who Code. This summer, she helped run the third annual Summer Immersion Program for Girls Who Code in a Zoom-based format.
“I’m so proud that Riot is in on this, not just for the girls,” Min-Koh said. “A few years ago, only five companies were participating. But there is such a great need. For the girls in our program, I was happy that we could be an example for other companies in our area.”
Riot is twice on the program every summer. Of course, many people in the industry remember that Riot dealt with allegations of widespread sex discrimination against women at the company since 2018, when a Kotaku unmasked revealed widespread issues at the company when it came to having a sexist culture. Lawsuits followed and the company has agreed to settle the case, although the legal battle continues about how much Riot has to pay as compensation.
But some change is measurable, and this program is one of many Riot is undertaking to resolve gender inequalities in the industry. The involvement with Girls Who Code predates many of the allegations that came out of Riot in 2017. While League of Legends developed a mostly male-dominated esports community when it emerged over a decade ago, Riot’s latest game, Valorant, has a whopping 40% female players. Riot, which now has more than 3,000 employees, is trying to ensure that the Appreciating Community Sports has many female players.
“We’re exposing them to really great jobs at a tech company,” Min-Koh said. “We don’t expect every one of the 60 girls to become a software engineer, but we do want to expose them to all those other jobs.”
And Riot can point to women like Anna Donlon, executive producer of Valorant, in high positions. Donlon came to address the group of girls and they were inspired by her, Min-Koh said. She spoke about themes such as empowerment and resilience.
“She talked about how she got to where she is now and it really resonated with the girls,” Min-Koh said.
Other speakers talked about careers and studying.
A personal goal
Min-Koh, who has her own young daughter, said she really likes the program because it reminds her of her own journey through games. (I met Min-Koh years ago when she worked at the Facebook gaming company A Bit Lucky). She likes to see the tangible impact the program has on girls.
Min-Koh said the program admits underpaid junior and senior girls and gives them the opportunity to learn computer science while working with a team of 18 Riot mentors. Shifting the program to online-only has allowed Riot to expand the number from 17 in 2019 in the Los Angeles area to 30 in 2020 and now 60 nationwide.
Personally, the program lasts seven weeks. But this summer it only lasted two weeks. A total of 85 Riot team members volunteered to join the program.
“We were able to do more because we were no longer limited to the size of our physical room on campus,” Min-Koh said. “And many students who couldn’t come to our campus because they didn’t have transportation. So the online format really opened the door for many students. It’s a big commitment involving a lot of teams, including facilities, and we’re so proud to have made a big step.”
The Girls Who Code SIP Program builds a sisterhood of peers and role models to help students and alumni succeed. Logitech MX also had its own program, and Zynga donated $100,000 for Girls Who Code. That means there is growing support for the industry-nonprofit partnership.
The causes the girls highlighted were women of color in the tech industry, LGBTQ+ awareness, the fight against climate change, the myth of the Asian model minority, Islamaphobia, sustainable fashion, the endangered species in California, the gender gap in science technology engineering and mathematics ( VOICE), and many others.
The hope is that the program can return to personal education next year. But that depends on the pandemic.
“There isn’t enough information to make a decision,” she said.
Min-Koh hopes other companies will join in and that Riot can set an example for how other companies can do the same.
“It’s great to see all these changes in gaming happening,” she said.
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