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EA exec Gabrielle Toledano: Sexism is 'not what's holding us back'

Samit Sarkar (he/him) is Polygon’s deputy managing editor. He has more than 15 years of experience covering video games, movies, television, and technology.

Sexism may be an issue that women face in the game industry, but it's not the main problem when it comes to the relatively low percentage of women in the industry, said Electronic Arts' Gabrielle Toledano on Forbes.

Part of Toledano's job as EA's executive vice president and chief talent officer involves serving as the company's head of human resources. According to Toledano, blaming men for "not creating an attractive work environment" for women is a "cop-out." Instead, she put the onus on women to be proactive about recognizing their place in the industry and forging a path for themselves.

"Nearly half of all gamers are female and yet I still continue to hear on a weekly basis that 'the only people playing games are boys in their basements.' It's just not true," Toledano said. She also noted the importance of hiring more women, since they know how best to design games that female players would find appealing — a critical factor for the industry's continued growth.

"Embracing a diverse culture and making talent a core focus of our business isn't just a feel-good message — it's necessary if we want to keep making great games," said Toledano.

"We'd love to hire more women but we can't find enough of them to hire"

But the most significant reason why companies don't hire more women, according to Toledano, is that the talent base just isn't there. "We'd love to hire more women but we can't find enough of them to hire, especially in engineering," she explained, noting that while EA already has more than twice the average percentage of female employees, "it's still not enough." She added, "In our industry and the technology world at large, we need to support educational institutions that are working so aggressively to encourage women to pursue STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] careers.

Toledano concluded, "Sexism is an unfortunate reality of our times, but as women we must seek the power and ability in ourselves to change the dynamic." It's the spirit of the Twitter hashtags that came out of the #1reasonwhy phenomenon — #1reasontobe and #1reasonmentors, with which women expressed their pride at working in the game industry and offered to shepherd other women into it.

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