By partnering with Gender Equality Across Industries (GEAI), Sparx* wanted to inspire and encourage its studio members to be a gender equality change catalyst at the workplace.

Almost half of all gamers are female; however, women are still underrepresented in the industry, making up only 30% of the industry’s workforce worldwide. While Vietnam has recently appeared as a regional hub for game development and has become one of the top 5 markets in the region, the role of women in this industry needs to reflect better too.

Been around since 1995, Sparx* understands the challenges of recruiting female employees in this sector. In Vietnam, and perhaps in many other societies, the stereotypes about gamers or game developers are also boys who spend hours in front of devices, sharing poor social skills and health-destructive lifestyles. The reality is that the number of female players is almost equal to male ones. The negative image of the game industry to the public, together with the traditional perception of gender roles in Vietnam, has stopped female talent interested in games from seeing the industry as a feasible career path.

The company understood that tackling this issue would need more than just slogans and posters. In April 2023, Sparx* invited Gender Equality Across Industries, a project by the U.S. Consulate General, with the vision to raise public awareness about gender equality issues across many fields and sectors in Vietnam, to deliver training on gender equality for its middle management team. The training aims to help managers across departments better understand the root causes of gender inequality in society and at the workplace, including the unconscious bias and prejudices of daily practices at the game studio.

Activities during 3 days of the training program co-hosted by GEAI and Sparx*

“I surprisingly discovered inequality happens every day at work which I had never noticed before, including different terms used to describe the success of women compared to men. From the training, I have started becoming more aware of these prejudices,” shared by Minh Tam, Art Producer at Sparx*, one of the training participants.

Tam experienced a gender bias situation in her previous job. At the interview, she was asked many questions about her marital status and whether she was planning to have babies. “I feel upset when people think marriage will put a stop to a woman’s career. I feel lucky to work at Sparx* because of its open environment. I wasn’t asked those questions about my plan for marriage and family. I am treated as who I am and trusted to do the job well regardless of my gender.”

In fact, not only women but also men face gender prejudice. When Dang Khoa, Lead Technical Animator at Sparx*, was a kid, he participated in acrobatic gymnastics and was about to become a grandmaster. Acrobatic athletes wear tight clothes, and the other kids teased him because of his acrobatic outfits. “I was shocked, embarrassed, and decided to quit,” he shared.

Reflecting on this childhood experience, Dang Khoa is excited to share how the training helped him better understand the issue of gender inequality. “The training helped me identify a lot of biased perceptions against women in games, or even in the textbooks, with images and stories conveying imbalances in gender roles, creating a lot of pressures for both men and women.” Dang Khoa finds it important to build a workplace where everyone feels safe, happy, supportive, and connected. And all those reasons have made him stay at Sparx* for nearly 18 years.

Activities during 3 days of the training program co-hosted by GEAI and Sparx*

As a pioneering gaming company in Vietnam, Sparx* wants to take the leading role in addressing gender imbalance in the industry. The company has set a goal to increase 30% female employees to 40% by 2025, with the belief that a diverse team would bring together a more comprehensive range of skills and unique ideas to make better games.

To achieve that mission, Sparx* has taken many actions to empower women and remove barriers to entry into the games industry through providing education and training. The company has organized several campus activities to raise students’ awareness about career opportunities for females in game art and game development – a traditionally male-dominated industry. Sparx*, together with other Virtuos studios, also initiated the “Women Game Changers” annual scholarship program, which aims to nurture female industry leaders of the future who will make their mark and positively impact the industry, both in Vietnam and globally. Most recently, the studio launched a social campaign under the same name, featuring stories of female Sparxers, highlighting their career journeys and unique experiences when making games.

By partnering with Gender Equality Across Industries (GEAI), Sparx* wanted to build a strong foundation of gender equality at the company by helping its employees get familier with the concepts and aspects of gender diversity, including definitions about biological sex, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, as well as unconscious bias, stereotypes about gender roles, or prejudices against the LGBTQ+ community, forming systemic discrimination that are often not visible. From there, Sparxers can have better understanding of gender inequality at different levels, and how they can act as a gender equality and diversity change catalyst at the studio.

Hong Hanh, Art Producer from Animation Department, expressed her opinion after the training: “The program helped me realize that various elements about gender identity exists, and there are still gender issues and inequality which I didn’t notice and understand properly before. Now I have more knowledge and confidence to talk to people about this topic and play my part in changing the prejudices and inappropriate practices around me.”

An exercise during the training where Sparxers created game characters that challenge gender stereotypes based on gender diversity concepts

“Society and families are driving the fate and the future of children, especially girls. Education, in my opinion, is still very important to help raise awareness of these issues. And as a game company, we will always strive to do our best to give both females and males equal chances to push their limits and show their fullest potential,” Samuel Stevenin, General Manager at Sparx* – a Virtuos Studio concluded.