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Women Stars in Video Game Industry

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The Los Angeles Times recently had a major business story about a woman named Shannon Studstill, the studio chief at Sony Santa Monica Studio, a video-game producer and incubator. As I read the story, I thought maybe -- just maybe -- women are getting in on the ground floor of a growing business in the world of technology. Not that there a lot of them.

The article points to the fact that, in 2012, only 4 percent of the 4000 video game developers were women. But women make up 25 percent of the producers ("though they make less than their male counterparts"), said the LA Times, citing Game Developer Magazine.

While these statistics sound like business as usual for career women, Shannon Studstill is obviously committed to changing that statistic. Since she rose to the top, 20 percent of her hires have been women. And she rose on the basis of a video game home run: God of War -- 21 million units sold and counting.

The article also mentioned another successful woman, Robin Hunicke, head of a new game company called Funomenia, founded upon the success of her video game, Journey. Robin credits Shannon with mentoring her with time and advice when she was at the Studio as a student. And that's what it takes.

This story reflects many of the key points in a recent book called The Board Game: How Smart Women Become Corporate Directors by Betsy Berkhemer-Credaire. The 58 women directors interviewed for the book emphasized the importance in their careers of mentoring and sponsorship by senior executives. They also said that women on boards focus attention on the women in the company and champion their development and progress, just as Shannon has done at Sony.

Gone are the days when successful women pulled the trap door closed once they climbed up, fearful of female competition. Women now, like Studstill and so many women in The Board Game, actively seek other women to support and mentor. They know from personal experience the value women bring to a task-- from managing a department to launching a world-class video game.

Studstill also mentions the positive impact of the female "dynamic" -- a phenomenon that partially accounts for the disproportionate success of companies that have gender diverse boards of directors, as opposed to the more traditional all-male boards. Women bring a different perspective to the table, enlarging the scope of discussions and contributing additional insights to decision-making -- a diversity of voices is fundamental to success in the global economy.

The importance of technology to every business interest also opens up a new pathway to corporate boards for women. Those who have operating experience at successful companies, understand the marketplace and the technology are in demand.

A third woman in the story about Studstill is head of the 8,000-member Game Developers Association. Kate Edwards says the Association is getting ready to do a survey of the industry to determine precise demographics for its workers. She points to STEM, the program in the schools for girls emphasizing science technology, engineering and math as an important step in leveling the playing field in video gaming for women.

Several current women directors of public companies told The Board Game that majoring in science and engineering definitely helped them gain important operating experience in their industries and gave them the ability to function effectively in male-dominated environments.

The development of STEM is a significant career portal for women. It may be the single most important initiative in the struggle for gender equality in the workplace.