Melbourne’s Girl Geek Academy has opened up applications for its Games Career Incubator, in a bid to give women and non-binary people a leg up in the gaming industry.
The program is funded by Film Victoria, which has committed $50,000 to the program to support “long-term change in the industry”, Girl Geek Academy founder and chief Sarah Moran tells StartupSmart.
It will be free for the cohort, and will include mentoring and practical training to help give people the skills, knowledge and support they need to get ahead in their careers, increasing the likelihood of them being considered from senior roles.
However, Moran says the incubator is also about building a community — bringing women in gaming together to form a supportive network.
This is an industry in which women are diluted in the workplace.
“You don’t have a girl gang, you don’t have a group of girlfriends that you can turn to,” she explains.
“That support structure isn’t naturally there.”
According to Moran, women make up about 30% of all workers in the tech space. In gaming, the difference is even starker.
“Only 19% of games industry practitioners in Australia are not men,” she says.
Because the problem is bigger and the industry is smaller, “creating this dedicated program will have higher impact”, she adds.
Building a community of women working in the games industry is a big part of the initiative. And already, the incubator launch event saw 55 women in attendance.
“We had no trouble finding those 55 women, but those 55 women would rarely be able to find each other,” Moran says.
And upskilling and community go hand in hand, she adds. Once you learn a skill, you’re able to help others out, even if it’s just helping them understand what they need to do to upskill themselves.
“Peer support becomes vital for women,” Moran says.
Through Girl Geek Academy, “that’s what we’re learning”, she adds.
“Women supporting women is the key to all women’s success.”
Switching the focus
The Games Career Incubator isn’t a startup incubator or accelerator, or even focused on startups or entrepreneurs.
Instead, “we’re switching the focus to the person, the individual,” Moran says.
While she expects to see applications from people building their own games or studios, “we are focusing completely on those individual women, and increasing their capacity to do that”.
A lot of programs for startups tend to focus on the outcome, she suggests.
“But if you don’t focus on building the person, you’re not really having a long-term impact on the industry.”
Through Girl Geek Academy’s #SheHacks hackathons and incubator, the team have found the best results come from tailoring content and advice to the needs of the individuals — asking what they need, rather than dictating to them what they should want to know.
“Our success has come around meeting people where they are,” Moran says.
“We’ve had really great feedback about that.”
The incubator will have a look curriculum, she explains, but the team are waiting until they have the cohort in place before anything is set in stone.
“We believe we’re going to get some outstanding interesting, passionate people, and we want to give them the best we can,” she says.
Be gentle on yourself
Applications for the Games Career Incubator are now open, and when it comes to selecting who will take part, Moran says it’s largely down to “how much value we can add for those people”.
She doesn’t enjoy even having to put an application process in place, she says, and would rather help everyone, “but there’s only so much space in a room”.
Instead, the team will focus on people in their first years in the industry, then consider how the cohort looks as a whole, in terms of diversity. Then, they will whittle down applicants depending on who they feel they can help the most.
However, the team will also be paying close attention to the individual needs of those that don’t make the final cohort.
“That gives us a reason to go back to industry and go back to Film Victoria to say we also need to look after these people,” Moran says.
“For us, it is a cumulative gathering of people,” she adds.
Anyone who isn’t chosen for this program won’t be forgotten. In fact, they may well be invited to join another program.
“When we reject someone it’s not because they’re terrible, it’s because our program isn’t the most suited for them at this time.”
Moran’s advice for anyone thinking of applying is to try not to overthink it, and just apply.
“Don’t rule yourself out before someone else does — because women are known to do that,” she says.
“This isn’t an exam, it’s not something you have to stay up all night thinking about … Get your details to us early so we can start opening up those conversations with you.”
Although she admits she’s “an 11.59pm submitter myself”, she urges applicants to get in touch early, so the team can do their research and reach out with any additional questions.
“It’s okay if it’s not perfect … we’re going to meet you with effort as opposed to expecting your app to cover everything,” Moran says.
“We’re here to support you we’re not here to criticise your application, so be gentle on yourself,” she adds.
“This is opening a door. This is not the be-all and end-all or whether or not you’re accepted in our community.”
This piece first appeared in Smart Company.