SAE Institute: Diversity in Game Educationn
Interview with Pierre Degardin, People and Culture Manager, SAE Institute Germany
The SAE Institute is represented in more than 20 countries. People from numerous different nations study together at your campuses. What role does diversity play in education today?
Our students’ and teachers’ background is, of course, just one aspect of the diversity on our campuses. We need to respect and promote the diversity of everyone in the SAE family, regardless of their gender, age, or geographic, social or cultural origin. The resources for this are at our core as an international brand. Our framework curricula are developed through the cooperation of international teams, and our employees and students in the DACH countries are very closely connected.
In the field of education, and as part of our society’s transition into a knowledge-based society, it’s essential that we concern ourselves with the promotion of diversity – and of equality in particular. Diversity in education inevitably leads to a person’s engaging with cultural aspects, opinions, ideas and world views. This promotes one’s own interpretation and understanding of new subject areas, while also nurturing one’s interest in them.
In the past years, diversity has become more important than ever for our work. If diversity isn’t one of your priorities, and particularly if you don’t address it proactively, you are excluding a huge number of people who could easily be part of the community at any of our SAE sites.
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 the diversity of the students in our degree programmes; it also plays a role in our selection process for lecturers. The array of different views 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 people who share their experiences and impressions with our students. Thanks to the further development of our teaching concept during the pandemic, we are now even in a position to offer each subject from two different lecturers.
Furthermore, the media sector has the advantage of being closely intertwined with the cultural sector, allowing for current social topics to quickly find their way into our curriculum.
As an educational institution, what do you feel are your responsibilities in terms of diversity?
We believe that diversity – in its many forms – is the strongest tool for the advancement of education, art, technology, the economy and our society in particular. We’ve set a clear goal for our SAE family to flourish as an even more open community that allows no room for exclusion or discrimination. This involves various projects and measures that will enable us to contribute responsibly to society. These include a zero-tolerance approach to discrimination.
Our campuses have been taking part in Girls’ Day for several years now; and as partners of the Klischeefrei initiative, we advocate against gender stereotypes in young people’s selection of a career or study path. Also, since we want to set an example as a diverse employer and promote diversity proactively in all areas, we host a monthly DEIB café for staff and designate ‘DEIB champions’ and DEIB representatives at the campuses.*
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, it might not yet be reasonably possible for them to study 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.
We anticipate a substantial increase in possibilities for participation in the medium term, particularly due to powerful advancements in the areas of media and medical technology.
How is it possible that the gender distribution in degree programmes specific to the game industry is roughly equal at the beginning of the course, but the proportion of women working in the game industry is still considerably lower than that of men?
We see a positive development in this area in the game industry. 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 game industry will have an opportunity to do so. The percentage of women in the game industry will increase significantly in the years to come, and we will continue to support this development.
We are pleased that many companies from the German game industry have recognised the benefit of having diverse teams. Employers – ourselves included – need to give more consideration to the issue of inclusion by promoting active participation and not just giving a platform to the loudest voices (which are usually male).
How can we ensure that more women transition from a degree programme into a job in the game 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 game industry is certainly a step ahead here, but the majority 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 very exciting career paths waiting for them out there. The entire industry should be challenged to share relevant success stories. The heroines of the German game industry must be visible if they are to serve as role models for the next generation.
The growing proportion of inspiring young people in public life – whether in the field of esports, streaming services, the music industry or politics – gives us reason to hope that society will change its thinking sooner than we might have dared to expect.
* DEIB – diversity, equality, inclusion and belonging.