SAE Institute: diversity in games education
Interview with Willi Wöber, HR Manager Region GSA
Diversity has always played a role at SAE because it has always been part of our DNA. Our sites in Europe have been employing people of different nationalities, religions and ideologies since the 1980s. That remains true today and this diversity is also reflected in our student body.
Diversity is becoming more important to our work in education than ever before. If diversity isn’t one of your priorities, you are excluding a huge number of people who could easily be part of the community at any of our SAE sites. Berlin is just one example of a campus where diversity has become part of day-to-day life for us.
Does the issue of diversity also play a role in your degree programmes and, if so, what kind of role?
Diversity is about more than just our students’ background, gender and other factors: it also plays a role in our selection process for lecturers. This combination of factors has been and continues to be key to our success. We miss out on a great deal of valuable knowledge and expertise when we only hear one person’s perspective on an issue. That is why we have a broad range of different people who share their experiences, impressions and personal opinions with our students.
As an educational institution, what do you feel are your responsibilities in terms of diversity?
Fairness is the basis for our decision-making. For instance, when it comes to salaries, everyone is equal. Some time ago, we developed an onboarding matrix intended to ensure that all employees are paid fairly according to their qualifications and experience. Whether the employee is a man or a woman is irrelevant. Our employees share this attitude and it is ultimately passed on to our students.
Does the SAE Institute offer accessible degree programmes and, if so, what do they entail?
Generally speaking, the degree courses we offer are accessible, but if a prospective student has certain physical limitations, they may want to reconsider studying at the SAE Institute. Working with movie cameras requires certain physical capabilities, for instance; students also need a particular level of hearing acuity to work in a recording studio, and so on. Of course, students with disabilities are still welcome to study with us, but we would have to point out the areas that might present problems and, in certain cases, advise students against taking up a programme of study with us for reasons of fairness.
How is it possible that the gender distribution in degree programmes specific to the games industry is roughly equal at the beginning of the course, but only 27 per cent of the people working in the games industry are women?
We have seen evidence that the games industry is changing in this regard. A few years ago, the gender distribution in our degree programmes was similarly uneven. We have certainly made a contribution to ensuring that anyone who wants to become a part of the games industry will have an opportunity to do so. The percentage of women in the games industry will increase significantly in the years to come, and we will continue to support this development.
How can we ensure that more women transition from a degree programme into a job in the games industry?
The first step is for society to change the way it thinks. Career paths are still too often defined by gender stereotypes. The modern working environment in the games industry is certainly a step ahead here, but the rest of society needs to understand and accept these new roles.
Today, when you talk to parents who are considering sending their daughters to SAE, the differences between the generations are sometimes extremely stark. It is clear that we still have a lot of outreach work to do here, and we need to keep working hard to make sure that girls and young women know that we exist and that there are exciting careers waiting for them out there.
Of course, the developments in esports and similar areas help us with this work, even though many people still don’t take these fields seriously.