The gaming industry should reflect the growing diversity of its demographics if it wants to succeed, said Sandhya Devanathan, Asia-Pacific vice president for the global gaming business at Meta.
“It’s not just a social imperative, it’s also an economic imperative,” said Devanathan, who was speaking on CNBC’s “Street Signs Asia” on Tuesday, which fell on International Women’s Day. In 2021, Facebook changed its company name to Meta.
The global gaming industry, which saw a surge in demand during the pandemic, was valued at over $300 billion in April 2021 and is expected to keep growing, according to Accenture.
Women now comprise nearly half of the gaming industry and games need to reflect that growing diversity, said Devanathan.
She cited Meta’s December 2020 research report, which she said found that that “many gamers would play more or would identify better with the game if they saw themselves reflected in the game as characters.”
In fact, only 35% of those surveyed saw someone that represented them, she added. The report pointed out that underrepresented gamers would be more likely to feel excluded and less likely to engage.
When asked about what Meta is doing about these findings, Devanathan said the company has tied up with academics, think tanks and civil rights groups to try to “build inclusion and diversity by design.”
She added that the company has announced a $15 million fund and a two-year research program with that aim in mind.
But while Meta is looking to improve its diversity, the company is no stranger to criticism on that front. It drew flak for its 2020 annual diversity report, which showed the number of female employees increased from 36.3% in 2018 to just 36.9% in 2019, while Black and Hispanic workers combined went from 8.4% to just 9%. It also saw fewer women in its workforce in June 2021 than in the year before.
Devanathan, who joined the tech sector after 15 years in banking, acknowledged that there’s still a long way to go in seeing equal participation of women in tech. She added that she felt her own case was an exception and women are still underrepresented on boards.
She cited a Hewlett Packard internal report which found that men apply for a job when they meet only 60% of the qualifications, while women apply only if they meet all of them.
When asked by CNBC on advice for women considering a mid-career switch, she said they shouldn’t discount the skills and knowledge they’ve picked up over the course of their careers.
She added that when it comes to new jobs in the emerging tech sector, many people may not even have the qualifications because of how new the field is, and women should take a “leap of faith” by moving across sectors and picking up new skills to prepare for the future.