Diversity, inclusion and equal treatment in the Finnish game industry

We in Games Finland, together with IGDA Finland, carried out a questionnaire in 2021 about the experiences in the game industry in Finland. The results give an overview of a mostly diverse and supporting atmosphere, but also bring to light problems when looking at the answers from marginalized groups and non-males. 

This data was collected through the We In Games internal newsletter, IGDA Finland’s newsletter, and several posts on closed social media groups for game industry professionals in Finland, including the We In Games Finland Facebook group. The survey was a Google Form that was open from January 21st to February 7th 2021.  There was no way to verify whether or not the respondents of the survey were actually working/studying in Finland, but we reminded them several times during the survey itself that this was meant for people working in the Finnish game industry. We received a total of 178 answers.

Marginalised groups here mean all the respondents who responded that they belong to a marginalised group based on their sexual or gender identity, religion, being a person of colour, disability, chronic illness, immigration status or by some other factor (84 respondents). Non-males are all the respondents who did not select “male” as their gender (104 respondents). 74 of the respondents identified as male.

Diversity, inclusion and equal treatment

On a scale of 1–7, 89% felt that their game studio or school is accepting of people from diverse and marginalised backgrounds (scores 5, 6 and 7). For male-identifying respondents, 95% felt this way, and 4% gave a score 4. Only one response was below the score of 4. When looking at non-male respondents, 86% gave a score above 4. However, scores 1–3 represent 10% of the respondents. Within respondents who represent marginalized groups, the figures were similar with 85% giving a score above 4 and 11% giving a score below 4. From those who gave further details about a score of 6 or 7, schools were mentioned as well as the bigger gaming studios, and Rovio got the most mentions.

Graphs on the percentages presented above.

Within the data, two different but simultaneous discourses or discussions about diversity are present. The practical discourse is linked to everyday work and presents as very positive towards diversity, since within this discourse the industry actually is diverse and all kinds of people are “already working here”. The political discourse instead may be linked to the larger political discussion about who “is allowed to be here”. Here diversity is seen more as polarizing and setting people in one (political) identity category at a time. This finding of two discourses, which are sometimes in conflict, could appear interesting for example in following DEI projects.

82% of the respondents said that if someone at their workplace or school came out as transgender, non-binary or similar, they would be supported and welcomed, and people would use their new name and pronouns (scores 5, 6 and 7). For male-identifying respondents, 81% felt this way, and 17% gave a score 4. Only two responses didn’t believe this would happen (scores below 4). From non-males 83% believed that their school or workplace would be welcoming, but 8% didn’t agree. In respondents who belong to a marginalized group, 80% agreed, 14% were indecisive and 6% didn’t agree. Some comments were left about not having been in such a situation yet and that some people might be unsure on how to react, so more information and educational materials would be helpful. Positive experiences described by multiple respondents were recorded and some people expressed their support in the open answers. However there was some uncertainty present, and especially non-binary gender identities were viewed as something new and as a topic people still need to learn more about.

Graphs on the percentages presented above.

76% of the respondents agreed with the statement “At my studio, workplace, or school, men and non-men are treated equally”. 11% were undecided and 13% didn’t agree. 87% of male respondents believed that everyone was treated equally and only 4% didn’t agree. Within non-male respondents, 68% said that men and non-men were treated equally, and 19% didn’t agree with the statement. Respondents from marginalized groups answered similarly, with 64% agreeing and 19% disagreeing. The difference in compensation was mentioned in the comments as one of the reasons why the respondents didn’t believe that men and non-men were treated equally.

Graphs on the percentages presented above.

When asked about how much racism and xenophobia did the respondent think exists in the Finnish game industry, 3% of the more senior respondents thought that there is none (score 1), 47% that there is very little or little (scores 2–3), 33% that there’s some (scores 4–5) and 17% that there’s a lot (scores 6–7). Of the more junior respondents, 10% thought that there is none, 32% that there’s very little or little, 48% that there’s some and 10% that there’s a lot. The comments note that there are more workers from abroad in the game industry than in other industries and that the companies are more welcoming, but that getting the first job is hard as a foreigner and people who don’t speak Finnish are sometimes discriminated against in the society as well as the game industry.

Further research on diversity and inclusion in the Finnish game industry based on the questionnaire

This article is the first one on the series that is based on the questionnaire We in Games Finland accomplished in 2021 together with IGDA Finland. In following articles, we will analyse sexual harrasment in our industry, the issue of unpaid internship, and list highlights and issues we could do better in this industry. 

Our aim is to conclude this survey biannually, and compare the result to get the clear image where our industry is going with diversity. The next survey is planned for 2023. 

Written by: Essi Jukkala, Susi Nousiainen, Taina Myöhänen and Licia Prehn

Questionnaire 2020 Results

The lion share of WiGFi members and the Facebook community are people who have been in the industry for several years. The LGBTQ+ community is solidly represented within the members.

We in Games Finland conducted a survey for its members, in order to better understand the background of its members, their desires and opinions on phenomenons of the industry. The questionnaire comprised topics on industry seniority, gender, sexual orientation, and race, opinions on the association and the reasons people might have left the industry.

A total of 111 people answered the questionnaire. It was shared on WiGFi’s Facebook page and on the member newsletter. It is worth to note that the results cover only WiGFi members and followers and not the whole Finnish game industry. We in Games Finland ry. has 250 official members and the Facebook community has 1300 members. A noticeable amount of members and followers are thus represented in the results. The whole Finnish game industry employs 3200 people.

Seniority and Positions in the Industry

The greater number of respondents, 78.4% were working in the games industry and 17.1% were not involved with the industry but would like to, and 4.5% were game industry alumni. 

These results indicate that our association members and the Facebook community are primarily people with senior to mid-level backgrounds. The members were asked for how long they have worked in the game industry: 14.5% of respondents had over 10 years experience in the industry, 8.2% had 8-10 years, 22.7% had 5-8 years, 19.1% had 3-4 years and 21.8% had 0-2 years. A tenth, 9.9% of respondents, were studying in hopes to work in the game industry in the future. 

We in Games Finland’s Questionnaire 2020 Results
Seniority in the industry

We in Games Finland’s questionnaire also touched upon the questions on why people left the games industry, and would there be anything that would make these people consider rejoining. The results show that respondents had found a better or more suitable job outside of games, or the company they worked at had been shut down. Indeed, it was mentioned that they would like to come back if a suitable position would open up.

However, there were some hints about unequal treatment at the workplace being the cause of leaving the industry. Even if this was not a common phenomenon based on these results, it is severe enough and something WiGFi wishes to dig a bit deeper in its next questionnaire. 

Diversity of Gender, Sexual Orientation, and Race Prevalent in WiGFi members

The gender spectrum in games professionals is diverse, but that the majority of WiGFi members and followers identify themselves as women.  From respondents, 88.3% identify themselves as a female, 6.3% as male and 4.5% as non-binary. The genderfluid, transgender male, transgender female, and agender categories were also represented in the results.

Most of the respondents, 85.5%, prefer to be addressed with she/her pronouns when speaking English. They/them were preferred by 15.3%, and he/him by 4.5%. The tenth part of members, 10.8%, said any pronoun would do. The results give clear insight for game companies to take into account wording in their internal communications. Companies with English as a working language could, for example, ask new employees their preferred pronouns. Game studios should make it clear to their employees that they will accept and adapt their pronoun use if employees come out as transgender or non-binary. 

A considerable part, 22%, of respondents were non-Finnish, and 15.6% were non-Finnish speakers. This follows the trend that Neogames has noted in their previous Finnish game industry report stating that 27% of the game industry workforce were from abroad. It is a common practice in the Finnish game industry to make the company language in English at the latest when the first non-Finnish speaking person joins the team. 

The LGBTQ+ community is well represented in WiGFi: 25.7% of respondents belonged to the non-straight group. It can be assumed that the percentage is higher than in the industry total as the questionnaire was directed to We in Games Finland’s members and followers. The high percentage on itself reflects the fact that in the games industry, one should not assume that heterosexuality and cis-gender are the norms. At a company level, this should be taken into account in everyday language: for example while discussing personal family relations, neutral expressions are recommended. 

SETA has published in Finnish a useful information package for employers how to take into account hlbtiq community in working life.

Another high percentage that should be noted is that 24.8% of the respondents mentioned having a non-visible disability. WIGFI’s survey did not ask for specific examples of these non-visible disabilities. However, it can be read from other studies that mental illnesses are rising in the games industry. IGDA Developer Statisfaction Survey 2019 noted that out of 28% of respondents identified as having a disability, 11% choose the psychiatric or mental illness category. Mental health issues and mental stress are commonly listed occupational health risks in our industry, and something every employer should take into account. Crunching, uncertain development cycles, the judgement of one’s creative work, and the sometimes disturbing content game makers have to create for certain games can exacerbate pre-existing mental health problems, and cause employees to need sick leave. 

For more information, check the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s page about psychosocial workload and a nonprofit organisation for mental health in games, Take This’ materials.

When it comes to race, 8.2% of WIGFI members are non-white. It should be remembered, nonetheless, that being non-white doesn’t automatically mean that someone is foreign, or that being white makes someone a native Finn. Many native Finns come from mixed ethnic backgrounds, and it is important for companies and event organisers not to assume someone’s ethnicity or linguistic abilities based on skin colour alone. 

Another noteworthy issue is that 2.8% of respondents belonged to a marginalised religion. If it is known that the employee belongs to a marginalised religion group, the best practice is to discuss if the employee has any hopes or wishes related to this. For example, for Muslims, offering a peaceful place for praying is a dignified act, and holiday acts might vary. Taking different religious practices and preferences into account when organising events is a very recommended practice.

Conclusions

The results and the open feedback give some clear takeaways for the organisation to analyse and to work for in the future. 

One of the organisation’s goals is to represent marginalised groups in the Finnish game industry- This is a constant process. The more data and feedback WiGFi is able to gather from its members and from minorities within the industry, the better the organisation can plan and target its actions. Raising issues into the public discussions and generating change in the industry is easier with the data these results provide.

WiGFi is very thankful with the heartening amount of feedback and ideas the survey respondents supplied. The organisation will review all comments, both negative and positive, and will be acting on some of this feedback immediately. Please stay tuned to the WIGFI Facebook group and website for more information!

Part of these results will be published in the Finnish Game Industry Report 2021.

For recommendations, we wish to thank SETA, Inklusiiv, Eve Crevoshay from Take this and Tarja Porkka-Kontturi. 

Thank you also for Taina Myöhänn and Felicia Prehn for analysing the results and editing this post.