Brianna Wu is the CEO of GSX and is one of the women behind Revolution 60. Join us as we talk about gender imbalance in Engineering and Technology, and how we can help bring balance to the force.
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There's something for everyone. So if you've ever wanted to learn something new, it's already February. So what are you waiting for? We'll talk about them more during the show. I'm your host. - Can I tell you a quick story about Linda? I love Linda. - Sure. - They are, you know, so my background is actually in journalism. It's not in software engineering. It's not in 3D stuff to be specific. So when I decided to make a career change and go into game dev, Linda is one of the first things I bought a subscription to. And, you know, I think it's just an amazing service. I think anyone out there that wants to learn, it would be very well served by it. - Yeah, cool. So yes, I'm your host, John Chidjie, and I'm joined today, if you hadn't figured out who that was, that's Brianna Wu. And welcome to the show, Brianna. - Lovely, thank you for having me on. - No, I appreciate your time. And I know you're short for time, so when I say this is gonna be a short show, I actually mean it will be a short show, 'cause it has to be. So there we go. - I will make time, so as long as we need to be here, I'll stay here. - Oh, thank you. Before we do get stuck into today's topic though, I just wanna quickly reiterate, yes, the Pragmatic t-shirts, the long-asked-for shirts, I'm probably only gonna do this once, so if you want one, grab them now. There's a link in the show notes, and I'm selling them like so many others do through Teespring. I realize if you're outside North America, then the shipping can be a little bit more pricey, but unfortunately there aren't too many other good options internationally that I'm aware of. I also have stickers now available. If you'd like to check them out, there'll be a link in the show notes. I've also been asked to do a coffee mug stubby holder, but at this point I'm just gonna hang off and wait and see how we go with the shirts before we go any further. But anyway, so now's your chance if you wanna grab one, get them now, they're only up for about another week. So grab them while they're there. And yes, there is both a guys and a girls version. So there you go, choose as appropriate. - That's awesome. You know, that it's really important to me. I can't tell you how many times I've gone to buy a t-shirt and they only have guys versions. And it's amazing that a lot of guys don't understand that guys t-shirts make you look fat because like they're so bulky all over. So I personally appreciate that. Thank you. - No, no problem. Basically, the truth is that whenever they have, you know, like a so-called unisex t-shirt, it never fits right on either gender. It doesn't seem to, you know, It just looks a bit off. And so I absolutely was always going to have one of each. And I, there are some, I get feedback from women that listen to the show regularly, Karen in particular, and thanks again for the feedback too, Karen. And no, it's just something that I wanted to make sure that I had both options. So anyway. Okay, right. So let's see, where do we begin? - Where do we begin? Where do you begin? Yes. Well, we're going to start with the way I typically do this is I want to start looking at the history just quickly, because the history for... We're going to talk about gender diversity or gender imbalance, if the way you want to think about it in the industries that we play in. So, in engineering and of course, in your case, in technology and in gaming in particular. And it's the sort of thing that it's hard to know where to start because the problem is as old as time. And I guess I just want to quickly cover the last century. And I'm just going to skim over the key points. I know. It's going to be... It's going to be... Let's just dive in. OK. Right. So, I'll start with the big ones. I think the right to vote, for example, and often that was referred to as women's suffrage. And in America, nationally, it was 1920 when that was first passed as law. the UK, it was 1928. In Australia, nationally, it was 1911. The states were, you know, it was that way since 19, by 1908. But it was only for British subjects in our case. It was a bit unfortunate because Aboriginal voting rights didn't occur until 1962, which is horrendous, but irrespective. And race is a whole other topic for another show. And goodness me. So, yes, let's just leave it there. So, it's only been a relatively recent thing in the last hundred years generally in Western culture and this is just to highlight how much of a problem it's been all that time up until then. So, then of course there's the right to work and women were always permitted to do certain jobs but not always to derive much if any income from them and during the First and Second World Wars, you know, women played a big role in the war effort although not normally, not necessarily on the front lines but it began to open up more opportunities in industries and job roles that that previously they'd been excluded from. The thing is though, there are still a lot of jobs out there where whilst women aren't technically banned, they are more of a boys club. And conversely, there are jobs where men aren't banned either and it's more of a girls club, things like nursing, which still has only about five to 7% of men in it. You got flight attendance as well as another example and more recently teaching. And teaching is actually one of the weird ones because it's more of a recent thing where men have sort of been leaving that profession. And that again is probably a whole nother topic. So I just mentioned that to frame that in context, but that is not to say that, you know, if you were to look at it, there are far more boys clubs than there are girls clubs, but you know, to be fair and balanced, there is a little bit on both sides. And the issue is the discrimination based on the gender and the stereotypes that drive these microcosms to be self-sustaining. And breaking into those microcosms is much harder than it really should be. - Do you mind if I add a really quick comment to that? - Please. - To everything you just said? So I think that it's certainly true that there are some fields, like say working for a nonprofit, or you also mentioned nursing, that are kind of more female dominated. But if you look at the history of women working, there tends to be a phenomena that happens. So when really high paying fields come along, like say software engineering, it typically happens that women kind of get pushed out of it. And I would say that software engineering is not the same as nursing. Like, nursing is a great profession. I think it's wonderful. I have friends that are nurses. But I think when you look at what creates the social fabric around us, I think software engineering is increasingly defining the world that we all exist in. Twitter, Facebook, social experiences, purchasing experience. And I think that having kind of the keys to the technological kingdom, you know, it's not just another profession. I mean, A, it's very highly paid, but it's also like the social engineering that goes on around us. So I think that this is a particular profession where it's extremely imperative that women be included alongside of it. 'Cause I literally think it's the future of the human race. Does that make sense to you? - Absolutely. And of course, you know, different professions and different histories. And the thing about software is that it's a relatively new one. So it's only really been around as a profession for what, maybe 30, 40 years tops, I think. Trying to think back to when the first computers really, when software became a thing. And it has, yeah, it has, you're right, it is higher paid. It's more niche because I think that it requires a certain level of knowledge to be built up. And that sort of knowledge that needs to be built up is something that has traditionally not been encouraged to be, it's not something that where women have been encouraged or felt encouraged. I guess this is one of the things that I wanna get to in a few minutes to talk about why that is, but I totally agree. I guess the thing that I cannot get past, no matter how many times I go through this is the gender pay gap. And I did a little bit of research on this. And in Australia, it's averaged over the last five years, somewhere between 15 to 18%. And in America, it's around about 19%. So similar sort of figures. So I call it a fifth less. So women get paid four fifths of what a man would get paid for doing exactly the same job, which to me is beyond ridiculous. And it's like, the idea is, Brianna, if you and I walked into a room and we were to swap bodies, we produced exactly the same work, then I, as the woman would get paid one fifth less. And I don't get it. I don't, it doesn't make sense. It just, I don't, if I didn't. - Well, having experienced it makes a lot of sense to me. So. - Yeah, I know. But it's like, why, why? I don't understand. So. - Well, I think it's a lot of unconscious attitudes that we have. Let me give you an example. I was very recently in a meeting with a bunch of people in the game development industry. These are colleagues, but they aren't people that work for me specifically. So, basically I'm having a meeting with a lot of high level people in game dev. And I noticed this trend that there was someone else in the room that was speaking up and they would be talking and naturally people would be quiet and they would listen to him. And I was actually speaking up and doing the same thing and people would just go into their own little conversations and would ignore that. So, you know, it's not that the, and this was a room with only three women in it, including me and like vastly majority men. It's not that the men in there were consciously sexist. It's that on an unconscious level, like someone is not speaking in like, you know, a deep bravado voice and it just was deemed less important on an unconscious level. And the irony was I was actually sitting there advocating for diversity in some of the work we were doing. And I had to take a beat and say, excuse me, you guys have been listening to my friend over there. Can we take a minute and listen to my response here? Which was the moment that everybody kind of paused and then heard what I was going to say. So I think 90% of this is, you know, tech is, there are consciously sexist men in tech. I deal with them every day. But the majority of people that I encounter, they have a kind of unconscious sexism. And, you know, it's just, it's programmed so deeply into us. It's hard to think past. I sometimes, when I speak about engineering positions, even though I am a software engineer, I will inadvertently refer to the position as male. And this is me. And I think so many of us have to kind of push past that. Yeah, it's just that example that where you just discussed about people breaking off into side conversations. I mean, that's just rude. Doesn't matter what, who's speaking. speaking. That's just the height of rudeness. But I've actually, now that you mentioned that, I've seen similar things. In engineering, there's not very many women, which, you know, is something that I, again, I sort of, I know why we are where we are, to an extent, but it's still frustrating. And I've been working on an oil and gas project for the last year or so. And there's a few female engineers, one of them, she's a process engineer that I'd love to get on the show. And I may at some point, actually. And she's amazing to talk to. She's got such a depth of knowledge and experience. And I've been in meetings where she's been talked over and it's like, well, you know, it's just it's hard not to get frustrated and upset by it, because all you can do is say, well, you know, everyone needs a fair chance to talk. Doesn't matter who they are. Everyone gets an opportunity to speak. And that's, you know, anyway. OK, so sorry. So I specifically, having done sort of the little bit of historical preamble, want to talk a little bit about your specific experiences and sort of for you, I guess, where it started. So beyond, before any of this, some of the more recent nastiness, which I guess we'll get to that you've had to deal with. Pretty horrific. Pretty horrific. Yeah, we will get to it. But for the minute, I just want to talk a little bit about what events sort of led you to this career? I think everyone has a sort of an origin story, for the want of a better way of putting it, you know. But I mean, what were the things that actually made you interested? The sort of starry-eyed, "I'd love to do this as a career." So, where did it all start or when did it all start for you? So, you know, my father was getting his medical degree in the Navy And in the early '80s, he got out, and he decided he wanted to go open up his own clinic. So we moved back to Mississippi. So for me, I had kind of been living on the outskirts of DC for a lot of my life. And then suddenly I found myself living in what is frankly the poorest state in the United States with the worst health care and worst educational system. But the irony is my parents were very well off. They were entrepreneurs and we had all kinds of computers and things like that at home. My mom is extremely technical and some of my happiest childhood memories were sitting on the floor of her office trying to figure out DOS IRQ settings to install a new hard drive. So for me, I found myself in this culture that I just utterly did not fit into. when it comes to like southerners talking about like, you know, who's dating who, or you're going to church all the time, or you know, football, which is kind of a religion in the South. I just frankly wasn't interested in that. So I kind of tuned out very, very early to the world around me and became intensely interested in computers. And the awesome part was like the biggest gift my parents ever gave me was they funded anything I ever wanted to learn. So it was like, hey, Bree, you're interested in computers? Pow, here's a $4,000 8088. You know, here are lessons over at the local college. And it was just a really cool experience. Part of that was also mixed with my parents being entrepreneurs. You know, my father didn't just open up his own healthcare clinic. He, you know, branched out into other businesses. So I was kind of, I didn't appreciate it at the time, but I grew up like going with my mom to meetings with the lawyer or the bank to work on this stuff. So from the very beginning, I kind of had this thing built into me where it was like, if you wanna do something, don't talk about it, just get out there and do it, make it happen. That's something that worries me sometimes when I see people that want to go into computer science is they're people that need a system in front of them. And that's not what computer science is since every single day, you're like the definition of the job is solving a problem that has never been solved before. So does that make sense to you? So I kind of had this background where it was like, whatever you want to do, like just get the resources and go do it. And that's an attitude that's really served me in good stead. - I think it's a great attitude. And I think that it's that sort of entrepreneurial attitude is something that's not pushed enough. And I think that a lot of people tend to, and I'll be honest, in my case specifically, I never considered it to be an option. It's like my option was go to uni, get a degree, go work for a big company. It was like that was it. It was not, you know, you can do whatever you put your mind to, you know, you can get out there, you want to build something, go build it. You know, that was never on the table. And I look back and if there's anything that I regret looking back historically is that I wish that I had have had more of that push early on. I didn't really start creating my own stuff until, you know, well more recently. And it's, yeah, so I think it's wonderful. And I think that the ability to do that with software is one of the great attractions of software. It's because you can set up a few computers, you know, and with the right motivation and talent and effort, you can produce something amazing. Yeah, I couldn't agree more. I couldn't agree more. I think it's um, I I do think there are a lot of people that approach it in a way that Kind of isn't well thought through, you know, a lot of people have this attitude like hey I have an idea and my idea is so awesome If I just get it made people are gonna flock to it and that unfortunately is not the way that the world works you know a reality of my position is I I Being CEO of GSX, I now regularly spend as much time on politics and connections and kind of getting things done behind the scenes as I do actually writing software. And that's kind of an unfortunate reality of this job. It's not an aspect of it I particularly enjoy, but it's what has to be done for myself and my employees. And I think a lot of people in this field would be better served to have a little bit more of a pragmatic approach to it. Nice choice of words. Yeah. OK, so my let's talk a little bit about that then. So you mentioned GSX. That's a giant space cat. Can you tell us a little bit about giant space cat? Absolutely. You know, this is a really fun time to be in the industry if you're a woman, because, you know, for most of my life, you know, when I was a child in the you know, late 80s and early 90s, you know, women basically barely played games. I'd be amazed if it was even 10% back then. So, you know, for most of my life, it was like if you were looking for female characters, or, you know, even games with, you know, a bit of a female bent to them, they basically didn't exist. The iPhone came out in 2008, and it's been a really, really exciting time. You know, in 2008, it was only 17% of players were women. And today it's 49.5% of players are women. So, I mean, that's really exciting. It's huge. And so, you know, part of Giant Space Cat and me launching it was a lifelong frustration with the way women are portrayed in games. I'm tired of us being the girlfriend. I'm tired of us being the damsel in distress. I'm tired of us being the cleavage-y sidekick that, like, you know, like, swoons over the male character. But on top of that, I also think that there's an opportunity for-- to just tell stories of women that, you know, it's more sincere. It's been my experience that a lot of male designers, when they do make games for girls, they kind of just, you know, slap a pink sugar-coated covering on top of it. And there's just, when you have women involved in the game dev process, I think you end up with a product that's just more authentic. I think that there are things that you can speak to when you're a woman creating games to just feel more right to female players. And that's not to say that men can't do that. I just think that there are some dynamics that come more easily when women develop. So, yeah, I put together GSX and I didn't have this mission to start like a majority female studio, but I found myself hiring people that I clicked with. So, Amanda was my first employee, Maria was my second, and we just kept going from there. And we've built this really awesome culture that's really friendly to mothers, that stresses like teamwork and collaboration above all. I think it's a really cool place to work. - It sounds like a great place to work. I guess I've been working in big companies too long where it's perhaps not quite so. Oh dear. But anyway, okay, cool. That's awesome. And one of the things that you've developed, Revolution 60, which has been out for a little while now. And I believe that there is a PC version that is about to go out for release. - I literally just put it up on Steam Greenlight right before the show. So yeah, we're really excited about that. It's really fun. - Oh, there's a lot of people very excited about that. I know that for a fact. But so one of the things that I really enjoyed about Revolution 60 is that it just, it feels so much, I don't know, it's more pleasant. I don't know how else to describe it. I don't know. I've struggled to put words to it as I'm struggling right now to put words around it. But I just, I really do enjoy the fact because I feel like it's a breath of fresh air in that space. And I think it's wonderful just for that reason alone. And it is a great game. So I will preface that by saying I'm not a huge gamer though, but still. So I'm really glad that that game has been made and I hope that you guys continue to make more games like it. So beyond the PC version. - Yeah, it's done very well in the marketplace. And I think, you know, there was a, you know, something I feel very strongly about is you shouldn't have to be able to work a controller of 15 buttons to enjoy a story. So we wanted to tell a game that was, to just tell a really good story for the player, because I think that transcends, you know, like there are a lot of non-gamers that have come to me and said, "I really, really enjoy this game." And that's because like from the beginning, we tried to just treat everyone with respect and to streamline mechanics. And, but yeah, beyond that, what I'm really excited about with this game and what I'm most proud of is, you know, we don't ever have a moment where we say, "Hey, women are awesome and equal in Revolution 60." But what we do have is an entire cast of women characters just going and having an adventure and being like fully fleshed out people with flaws and, you know, good parts of their personality and bad. And the message underneath it all is like, "Look, women are people too." you know, and I think that's a really needed message. Absolutely. No, definitely. It brings some balance to the force for the want of a better way of putting it. But the great thing is, though, it's a start. And I think that there's, I hope, as I said, that there's more of that that happens. And I think that there will be. And the success of Revolution 60, I think, is going to hopefully going to promote more of that in the future. So I hope so, too. Yeah. So before we go any further, though, I just want to quickly talk about our first sponsor, a new sponsor for the show and that's Extrasensory Devices. Now, ES Devices, they're an innovative company from Palo Alto in California and they've recently released their all new Luxi4All. It's an incident light meter attachment for your smartphone on your tablet. Now, if you're a photographer that likes to take the best possible shot or even if you aspire to be a better photographer, then precise control of your exposure is critical and to figure that out, you need a reliable, accurate light meter. Problem is, standalone light meters can cost upwards of $100 for a good one and they take up a lot of space in your camera bag, they need their own batteries and can be a pain to use. 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So, so we talked about how you got into software development, and I guess one of the things that I wanted to sort of ask is, were there any points along the way before you started up Giant Space Cat that you were ever sort of like felt you were discouraged or pushed away from that career based on your gender? Did you ever feel any of that? Were there any situations where that happened? No, not really. Oh, good. I mean, I, believe it or not, I was, I would describe myself as barely a feminist before I started this company. And you know, I had worked as a reporter and I'd had various jobs kind of, you know, working in tech and Microsoft Server tech and doing deploys and installations. But you know, it's, I certainly, like I'll never forget a job I had three years before I started Giant Space Cat, you know, I showed up for my first day of work and all the dudes took off that day to go Play Halo together, which had just come out. I think it was Halo 3 Halo 2. No Halo 3 and you know, they didn't invite me along because they assumed I didn't play games and so there were there were more minor incidents like that, but You know nothing that really rose to the level but what I found as I started working as a software engineer in video games is you know, and I Think they're really good people that work in this field, but it's so much more sexist in ways that shock me every single day that I kind of my views changed and I felt compelled to start speaking up about it and And even before all the Gamergate stuff happened, a lot of people like to, they're under this impression my career didn't exist until Gamergate. Well, that's not true. I was already getting more conference invites out to talk about women in tech issues before any of this happened. And I've been writing industry pieces for a very long time about this. So, I love this field deeply, but I'm sorry to say in my personal experience, this field is drastically worse than any other I've ever worked in. - Yeah. I guess I was a little surprised to hear that you say that you had no real resistance early on. It wasn't until you got into this specific field that there was more of an issue. I mean, that's disappointing, don't get me wrong. In engineering, I've heard multiple women tell me about different things along the road, just from, I can't say from my experiences because obviously I'm a guy, But from women that I've spoken to in engineering, there's, there seemed to be a sort of a bit of a culture like, "Oh, well, this isn't really a girls thing. So like, why are you here?" kind of thing. And I'm really, I'm genuinely glad that that was not a roadblock for you to get to where you are now. And I guess the problem I've got is that right now we've got, okay, we got to talk about Gamergate. So I guess, pure and simple, what happened? I mean, well, let's start with what is Gamergate and maybe you're better to describe it than I am, but yeah, let's start with that. - Well, I mean, Gamergate at its core is it's, there's a short answer and a long answer. And the short answer is there's been this tension in games for a long time as, you know, games have kind of been a boys' club. And I remember being a child in the 80s and 90s. And, you know, there were a lot of nerds it kind of felt like games were their space. And they're very protective of it. You know, something that strikes me every year when I go to PAX is how people will wear gamer t-shirts and have gamer tattoos. I mean, it's like their tribal identification. There are a lot of people that really establish their identity in games. So what you have is the game industry is changing because so many more players are women these days. and games are becoming more inclusive. And the short answer is there are a lot of men that are being very sexist about those changes in ways they don't understand. The kind of longer answer is, you know, my friend Zoe Quinn, who's a game developer here in Boston alongside me, she basically had an ex-boyfriend of hers release this horrible, shocking transcript of their entire love life. And released just horrible details about her sex life out to the public. And what you had was these sexist gamers kind of take it and go with it and use it to attack her with. And the pretext is this is about journalistic ethics, but the truth is it's about attacking women in this field. I've been seeing these people go after Zoe, go after my friend, Samantha Allen, go after so many women that I became very vocal in speaking out against it. We're now at the point where in just speaking out and advocating women in this field, game development, I've had 43 death threats in the last four months. I deal with law enforcement every day talking about this. And you know, it's at the point where when I have public appearances, yeah, I have to have security to escort me at this point, because that's just how serious the threats to my life are. So, you know, it's a really unfortunate situation. And for me personally, it's a massive distraction from my career. Perhaps it goes without saying that it is absolutely horrible to hear that you have to be put through this. and I, 43, I had no idea it was that many. - Yeah. - I knew it was a lot. - I mean, I don't even count the rape threats at this point because it's just like, yeah, whatever, you know? Like that doesn't even mean anything. I had someone make a video yesterday of showing a picture of a nail gun and talking how they were going to, you know, basically use it and nail and murder me and Anita Sarkeesian. And you know, this is just an evening, seven o'clock at my house. So it's really frustrating. And something that's really frustrating with it as well is I don't have to be here. Software engineers can work anywhere they want, basically. And I have jobs in other industries that are tangentially related to the game industry. I got a job offer two weeks ago to go head a VR team outside of the game sector. And it's frustrating to me because at this point, I couldn't leave game dev if I wanted to, because I have so many women that look up to me, you know, as kind of a line in the sand. So, you know, suddenly my career isn't just about me, because if I left, that would signal a huge win to, you know, basically all these sexists out there. So it's just an awful situation to be in. Yes, that is horrible. And I, it's difficult, it's difficult for me to have this conversation because it's hard for me, because I can't appreciate what that really feels like. I can't. I can imagine that's the best I can do. And for what it's worth, I'm not sure what it is worth, but for what it's worth, I think standing your ground is the right approach. It's in my experience in engineering and seeing what other women have gone through, where they've been confronted with. And as far as I know, death threats, rape threats, no, I have not come across anyone that's been through that in my industry, I will admit. But I envy that. Well, this is what I'm thinking about. It's like all of the examples that I can quote are not of the same scale, not of the same intensity and severity as what you've been subjected to. But the approach that, you know, I think that the approach of sticking with it and not giving in is the only right answer. Because as you say, if you fold and you move on, then it feels like there's a victory to them. And that's the wrong behaviour. And ultimately, it comes back to prosecution. I mean, no matter- These people that are making these threats, you say you're working with law enforcement. Are they able to prosecute these people? Are they able to track them down and to do something about this? I mean, have they been able to- Well, I mean- Any of them? I think the numbers speak for themselves. I mean, it's not just me. It's Anita Sarkeesian. It's Zoe Quinn. It's Randy Harper. So I mean, look at all the death threats and rape threats we've gotten and ask yourself how many arrests there have been. The answer is zero. So I think, unfortunately, the question is, is law enforcement getting it done? As a software engineer, I don't particularly care about intent. I care about outcome. So are they getting it done? No. I can't say I had-- I don't know if you or your listeners have read what's happened to me this week, but it's been really scary. Like people making terrifying videos about killing me. So I can tell you I had a conversation with law enforcement this morning and I'm hopeful that something's going to happen after talking to them. But it's a waiting game. I brought to their attention this particular person that was threatening my life over a month ago. And, you know, I gave them his address, his phone number, I gave them testimony from, you know, actual supporters of Gamergate that just didn't want to see someone killed. You know, I gave them all this information and it's just been waiting for stuff to happen. I guess one of the things I just want to preface what I'm going to say with, I'm not suggesting that this is in any way equivalent to what you've been through, but the closest that I can come to understanding what it must be like is that when I was younger, I was a teenager, I got into CB radio. It was before the internet was a thing, you know, because I'm like an old grandpa or something, you know. And I didn't realise when I was younger that you can triangulate someone's position when they transmit on a radio. And obviously the same is true of mobile phones, right? They can- Right. Yeah. They're able to- Before GPS, they could still triangulate your position within a reasonable amount of accuracy. if you knew what you were doing. And anyway, I'd said some things on the CB radio that, you know, other people had, you know, it's a party line, right? Kind of like Twitter is, same kind of deal, but anyway, and some people that knew how to had actually tracked me down and said my address over the radio. And I freaked out because I, the penny dropped that, okay, they've tracked me down and now they've, you know, threatened to come around to my place and it was harmless in the sense that they weren't threatening to kill me, they weren't threatening to rape me or anything, they weren't threatening to do anything that severe but my bedroom was at the front of the house where I lived and I would wake up during the night and I would look out the window at a car driving past slowly I would just freak out because I'm like, is that them? Have they come to track me down? And it took me months to get over that. I actually went, what they call sitting on the side of the radio, whereby you just listen, you don't actually put anything out there. And I and I realize years back, and we're having this conversation, sort of bring some of that back. It's like I cannot imagine that I would say at least I don't know how many times worse that you must go through. It's pretty much exactly like that. You know, my husband has a secret knock that he uses every time he he walks through the front door, because every time anyone's on the porch, I understandably worry they're going to they're going to kill me. You know, there's a there's a level of paranoia out for me 24/7. I was in France last week and, you know, I had this moment where I was walking around and I didn't feel scared and I was outside and that was new to me. Yeah, so yeah, it's it's very much like what you said. It's just on a higher level. The difference being not only is my address out there, I have multiple people that have said who, what, where, why and when they're gonna kill me. So, you know, it's just frankly exhausting and it's it's not it's not an exaggeration to say. I feel strongly enough about women working here in the industry that you know I'm willing to risk my life over it and you know my family's life So you have to imagine just how strongly I feel about this issue to literally put it all on the line like that I'm flawed. I'll be honest. Sorry right, yeah so Okay, I knew it was bad Brianna. I just didn't realize how bad It's it's it's like a lobster in a pot, you know, I just don't Kind of I was talking to I don't want to say who one of the women that's been primarily targeted last night And she was she was talking about how it's just you know screenshots send it off to the FBI And that's exactly what it's like for me. I mean again, I'm just sitting on the couch It's eight o'clock last night and someone says hey Bree should really check out this video of this this man that's threatening to murder you with a nail gun and you know, I sit there and I watch it and you know, it's credible and What can I do at that point? I mean I can either go to my closet and cry or you know, I could just kind of Compartmentalize it as best as I can but I mean it's it's awful and you know, it's worth saying I don't You know, I don't vote on policy for for the government, you know Like I make I make games that you play on your phone and PC so it's it's just crazy to me and you know, most of why I advocate it's You know, it's not like I have some extremist Ridiculous position like let's ban Call of Duty games. Let's get rid of Grand Theft Auto I mean my my position which you know Basically the people against me have to distort because it's so incredibly reasonable is hey as an industry let's look at our hiring practices and you know change a few things so more women can work here like can we do that and it's it's such an unbelievably reasonable thing to strive for. Well absolutely and that's one of the things that I would like to talk about is ways that we can try and balance. The problem is that there's a momentum and I guess a little bit of a hysteresis for the you know for the one of a better way of describing it and all of this momentum and all of this, you know, anti-female, I don't know what I'm putting it, this gender anger, it's just anger, is that it's built up over such a long period of time that it's so hard for us to just, you know, you can't snap your fingers and it'll just go away. It needs to be a continued concerted effort to bring balance. And I think that it has to start with actually enforcing the law, start with that The thing is, in most companies there are sexual harassment policies When it's out there on the open internet though, it's a very different game Ultimately though, there are still laws against harassment And it comes back to the policing of that If it's not being police or taken seriously, then what's the good of having a law that says "Well, you can't do that, you can't threaten someone's life" If that's not being enforced then it's pointless. So let's start with that, right? So, step one, enforce it. I couldn't agree more with that, but I think, you know, it's really hard for me to not talk politics when I discuss this stuff. But I think something we could all agree on is that the United States government is kind of fundamentally broken at this point, like when it comes to governing. So, what is very frustrating is, you know, politics aside, right, left, whatever. I mean, any nation needs bodies to pass laws and to kind of update those laws. And what we have in the United States is the process is so hopelessly polarized that we can't get anything done. I could tell you there's a lot of confusion over whose responsibility it is to kind of respond to these things. So you have Danielle Citron, who's kind of a legal expert on this. She's like, "The law is very clear. These things that they're doing are very legal and prosecutable. The problem is law enforcement, there's no one that's particularly mandated to respond to it. Local law enforcement is, I'll respect my local police department, but they're not the most tech savvy people I've ever talked to in my life." So what you have is, with respect to law enforcement, with total respect to them, because I have paranoia about being killed all day, and they do too, so I have a new level of empathy for that. But with respect, they're not really... There's an educational component that we need to have. And we need new laws to kind of delineate law enforcement response to this, because the current outcome is there's none. It's like, need a special section in order to specifically deal with these sorts of, you know, online cases of online harassment. And that sounds like it's being underserved at this point. Yeah. I mean, do such sections exist? I mean, I know I'm reasonably sure that there's a very, very small online crimes division in Australia, but it would be relatively small. Is there anything like that in the States or is it of any significant size or not? If there is, I haven't seen any outcome from it. So, you know, again, this is a metaphor I use a lot, but when I am a software engineer and I write code, it doesn't matter what I hope the code will be. It matters what happens when I hit compile and run. And, you know, it's all about the outcome. And right now, the outcome is failure. Right now, the outcome is inaction. So, you know, lovely platitudes don't help me. You know, men in this industry giving beautiful speeches about how much they support women don't help me. You know, we kind of need to get past this grandstanding and get some actions taken. So, it's about the enforcement and beefing up the enforcement of the laws, because some of the laws exist, fleshing out the laws and providing, I think more severe penalties for this sort of behavior, a good place is to start. Having said that, that's not a trivial exercise, but that doesn't mean that we shouldn't try. And I guess it comes back to going back again. I mean, it does come back to the, I suppose, the electoral process in some form, because that's how laws get passed. And that means that we need to have more more women involved to provide that balance and that level of government which is another thing that is, you know, is not balanced. I'll admit I haven't done research on specifically on those numbers but I'm not sure maybe are you aware of whether or not women are well represented in government in America? No, I mean it's on the it's definitely on the there's an increase in it but it's nowhere you know women are 50% of the population and it's nowhere near that. One stat I find very very very very interesting did you know that women it doesn't matter if we are on the right or the left politically we agree on more a woman that's on the right and the left as far as the policies we support than a a woman on the left and a male moderate. So I think that there's a common experience that women share. And a good example, look at what happened with Wikipedia, which is a really scary outcome. Basically, you have a bunch of men on the highest ruling body of Wikipedia. Some surveys have shown that 9 out of 10 editors at Wikipedia are male. And it shows in the decisions that they make. And they kind of picked this, made decisions about Gamergate Wikipedia page that were tremendously antagonistic to the women involved. I can't even use some of the language that people have used to kind of vandalize my Wikipedia page because this is a family show, but it's really frustrating. And I think with all respect to guys out there, something I really run into very frequently is a lot of men are truly unaware that they can't speak for women, or they can't just inform themselves and make a decision that's good enough for women. I mean, here in the States, we used to have this old idea before. One of the arguments against women getting the right to vote was, oh, their husbands can just vote for them. You know, it's very much the same when you have these kinds of judgments. And the truth is, women are not some homogenous force. If you look at what I believe, and what Randy believes, and what Anita believes, and what Zoe believes, we're all different people. And we all have different priorities. We all have different personalities publicly. But there's a common thread of a common experience that we have. And I just think that that perspective is really, really critical. Sheryl Sandberg got a lot of blowback in her book Lean In from people that felt like she was too corporate or whatever, but there was an anecdote that she started that book with that I loved. And it was of how when she was pregnant, she really needed a close-up parking space 'cause it was so difficult for her to walk in. And then once she rose up into the leadership, she was able to kind of implement that for other pregnant women in her department. So, I think that there's a certain end of women that you can get involved, period. Because, you know, feminism is not about what I, Brianna Wu, believe. It's about what all women believe. So, and I think that just getting that number higher, 90% of these problems solve themselves. - Exactly. And if you bring that balance to the right places, then the things that are not currently getting attention will get the attention that they need. And it's a matter of, I suppose, trying to break into those circles and into the boys clubs, if you will. And that's part of the challenge. So, yeah. So, before we go on any further, I'd like to talk about our second sponsor and that's Linda.com. So, Linda.com is an easy and affordable way to learn. Now, you can instantly stream thousands of courses created by experts in their fields of business, software, web development, graphic design, audio and lots and lots more. Way too many to list here. They have an enormous library of tiles to choose from with new courses added every day to make sure their library is both relevant and up to date. They work directly with experts from many different industries and software development companies to provide timely training, often the exact same day the newest release becomes available. So you know that you've got the latest information the moment you are most likely to need it. And these are nothing at all like the homemade tutorial videos you might find on YouTube that might tell you a little snippet unindexed buried somewhere deep inside them. that snippet of information you really want to know, well, lynda.com make high quality, easy to follow and well indexed video tutorials with transcripts broken down into easily searchable sections. And this bite-sized piece approach makes it really easy to stop and pick up where you left off whenever you need to. So you can learn at your own pace, in your own way and in your own time. Now, whether you're a complete beginner with no knowledge at all about a subject or you've been a moderate to advanced user looking to brush up on the latest version of software, lynda.com has courses that span that entire range of experience. You can learn on the go as well, since lynda.com has iPhone, iPad, and Android apps. They also support playlists and provide certificates as evidence when you complete courses. And if you're on LinkedIn, you can publish them directly to your profile. So you were mentioning before, Brianna, that when you got into software development that lynda.com was very helpful for you. - Yeah, yeah. You know, this is a story I love to tell, But being here in Boston, I very frequently go out to colleges and evaluate students' portfolios. And sometimes-- I cannot tell you how many times I've gone to a college where these children are being charged like $40,000 a semester. And I will sit there and I'll look through their professional portfolio, and I just want to cry because they're not employable. And the truth is, learning this stuff, there's no secret to it. It's what I call butt in chair time. And college is a really good way to learn that in a structured way. That's certainly a path. And if you're prepared to make the most of it and take advantage of that education, it can be a really positive thing. For me, I've never had a class in any of this stuff. I talked about my background. It was just kind of get out there and learn it. And I'd worked in Photoshop and my-- sorry, Photoshop and Illustrator. But I had no background in 3D work. So I signed up for Lynda and just kind of started learning those programs and following the tutorials. And I think we shipped a very impressive game for a team our size. Never paid a dime for tuition. And I just, I think if you're gonna be a success, I think it's really more up to you, who you are on the inside and your drive, rather than what college that you go to. I don't think tech is necessarily a meritocracy, But I do think it- the skill that you bring to the table shows. And, you know, I just- I'm very- they all- Linda also sponsors us and I think they're a wonderful product. Absolutely, they are. And it's something that you said that resonates as well with an earlier episode of this show, episode 10, Passion Over Academic Proof, and where I basically- I take about an hour and a half to say what you just said, which is basically if you've got a passion for something, you know, you can learn about it through alternative means. You don't have to go through the whole academic process to become effective at what you do if you have a passion for it. And Lynda.com have got all the different training courses that you could ever want. So all you need to do is basically get stuck in. So Lynda.com is used by millions of people around the world and has over 3,000 courses just on topics like web development, photography, visual design and business, as well as other software training like Excel, WordPress and Photoshop. You can think of it. they've got a course about it. - Yeah, it's really true. - It's incredible. So what's it worth? For one low monthly price of $25, you get completely unlimited access to over a hundred thousand video tutorials in lynda.com's library. But premium members with an annual plan can download the courses to their iPads, iPhones, Android devices and watch them offline. Premium plan members can also download project files and practice along with the instructor. So I've been talking with lynda.com for a while and have enjoyed their content on and off for years, as has Brianna, and I'm happy to be able to provide Pragmatic listeners with a special offer to access all of their courses for free for a 10 day trial. Visit lynda.com/pragmatic to try lynda.com free for 10 days. That's L-Y-N-D-A.com/pragmatic. Thank you once again to lynda.com for their continued support of Pragmatic. Okay, so I guess we need to start wrapping up. What I wanted to do is, I guess, try and focus on things that are going to have a practical benefit. Platitudes, like you say, don't help necessarily. It's really... I think platitudes can motivate action, but platitudes in and of themselves are not action. So, it's all well and good to say, "Yeah, we need to do something," but it's far more useful to actually do it. So, I think getting more women involved in the, not just, well, you mentioned Wikipedia, but that's definitely one example. But in terms of the legislative point of view, more women involved in government and at all levels of government, such that there is more balance and that these issues are brought to the forefront. I think from a business point of view, there needs to be better enforcement of sexual harassment policies. Because like I said, the policies in businesses exist. Every company that I've worked for in the last two decades has had a sexual harassment policy. Well, I think maybe a decade and a half, but certainly, you know, there's a policy. But the problem is that the women aren't well, they're not discouraged. But I've sat in a room and I've watched, you know, women be harassed for all sorts of different reasons. Sometimes it's subtle, sometimes it's not. And they don't come forward because they don't feel safe to do so. And I think that it's a matter of companies need to re-examine just how seriously they take this. And it's also a matter of people, if guys are wondering what they can do, it's a matter of, you know, like be professional, be courteous, be kind, be supportive. If someone is being harassed, offer to help them. Don't turn a blind eye. You're just perpetuating the problem. And I think that with enough time and concerted effort eventually we will get there. It's just what frustrates me is how long it's taking. We're so much further than where we were, but we've still got so much further to go. Yeah, definitely. I think also, if you don't mind me saying, something I've noticed a lot when we have this conversation is a lot of the conversation tends to go to Sexual harassment, which is in fact a very serious problem, but you know, it's not the totality of the problem I would actually estimate that discriminate in my own opinion and you know to be clear I'm a non parent but from what I've seen I actually believe Discrimination against mothers is one of the the biggest fights that we have in technology. I could name you 20, 30, 40 women I know, they're engineers, software engineers, that kind of got no support after they had children. And because of that, they weren't valued, they were kind of not considered for promotion in the same way, their employers were not flexible, and it's a really big problem. So I think you have... It's like something that really frustrates me is people consider it's a pipeline problem, which it is, but they want to just cram like little girls into the end of the pipeline. And they don't understand that there are all these leaks along the way. It's like social pressure, like when you're a teenager and you're learning this stuff, it's pressure to... It's just absolutely every step of the way. If I could change one thing, because like me, you're kind of someone that enjoys concrete action items. I am tired of having conversations with men in the industry that they have this conversation. They go, "Oh, well, I want to hire women, but I just don't apply and just can't do anything. Oops." And it's like, it's so frustrating because like people like in game development, like Metal Gear Solid V is about to come out and they have like created a dynamic animation system for your horse to poop as you're writing it. But when it comes to like designing or altering a hiring pipeline, so women are considered more along the way. It's like, "Oh, no, that's beyond me. We can't. It's unsolvable." Like, you know, we have to- We got the horse pooping, but we can't do that. We got horse pooping now, but yeah, we just can't solve that. So something I found, you know, a giant space cat, I never, never, never, never have trouble Hiring women in my company and the reason is like I have a reputation for treating women fairly I actually believe it or not. I had a woman that came in that was She had enough experience to get hired for You know a mid-level engineering position and she was coming in to hire as my assistant Because she just wanted to work for our company that badly and was helping a hoping that an engineering position would open up So for a lot of these companies, I think they just don't realize that their culture pushes women away And you know, there's so much I Think a lot of people don't understand that sometimes women will talk about your company With other women in the field and we very much have conversations like you do want to work there. You don't want to work there You know We kind of talk about that. So you end up with companies where women aren't applying because their reputation sucks So I think there's that. Something else I believe in is growing talent. This is very much the core of what we do at Giant Space Cat. I'll give you an example. I hired someone for a position a few weeks ago, and she wants to become a game developer. It has nothing to do with her job that I hired her for, but I'm going to turn 10 hours of her week over into game development, kind of train her in the pipeline. And it's my hope that she will grow and learn, you know, to be a game developer and will become a very powerful part of our company. And that kind of trusting people, like finding people where their personalities show a lot of self-determination and kind of hiring them and building them up, I think that's something that companies should really look at. Because the truth is, because of the historical discrimination against women, you know, some of us don't look so great on paper. paper. Another example is I know a lot of friends of mine with children that, you know, they worked as software engineers and like, you know, they're mid-20s and then they went and had kids and now they're 40 and they're trying to get back into it. You know, and I think there are all these ways we can kind of look at the problem holistically and kind of innovate to bring women in the door. Because I absolutely believe that if you're a woman, You have to deal with so much BS in this field that you really wanna be here. And I think because of that, like our drive is a lot higher to achieve a lot. - Yeah, I believe that is absolutely true. And the hardest working engineers in general, if I were to look at, and again, this is subjective, this is just my eyes looking at my space, but in the engineering fields that I work in, I would say that there are far more hardworking female engineers than there are hardworking male engineers. You know, the guys are far more likely to drop by your cubicle and just gas bag about sports on the weekend. Right. Whereas the women are like, you know, you turn your email in the morning and there's an email sent at 10.30 last night, you know, from you know, from Sharon. And it's like, okay, because, you know, you know that she's got you know, she's got married, she's got two kids and she's got a very busy life. And yet she's, you know, literally burning the candle at both ends to do the best job possible. And I, you know, for me, that's what matters. I don't care what the gender is. I care what the result is, which is you work hard, you do a good job. I respect that. And I just wish more people simply saw it that way and took gender off the table and simply said, look, are you good at what you do? Yes, no. Yes. Then, you know, we'd love to have you, we'd love to keep you and we'll do everything we can to keep you, no matter what it is. So I think that's where I want to get to. I think that's true. But I think because of unconscious discrimination, I run into a lot of guys with that that mindset, and I think the danger of it is I think something we find in the industry is it's it's men deciding what has value, men deciding who's good, men deciding, you know, what has merit. And I think I think sadly, this kind of well, don't look at the gender. or look at the work aspect of it, I feel even with the best of intentions, sometimes unconscious bias comes into play. Because I just, I simply do believe this. And again, this is as a non-parent. I believe that like a 40-year-old mom with a kid is valued much less by male engineers than a 40-year-old father. And I think that there's a lot of unconscious biases that people bring to the table. And I think because of that, I think that I think we're at a point where we need to get a little bit more in depth with our solutions than that. Yeah, no, I agree. I guess the problem for me is I feel like I need to start somewhere and I try, the biases may well be deeply ingrained. And it's something that everyone needs to learn to recognize in themselves. and sometimes it takes other people pointing it out for us to look in the mirror and really see ourselves and how we act and see our true reflections. But the truth is that with such a skewed percentage, such a gender imbalance and a pay imbalance as it stands, I like to think that some progress is still something. I guess I feel frustrated because I wish that there was more that I individually could do. And I guess the best advice that I can come up with, maybe you've got better advice, I really would like to hear. But I think it comes down to supporting women in those roles, like from a legislative point of view, like higher up in companies, and making sure that they are taken seriously and taking them seriously and not- And understanding your biases and putting that to one side and focusing on the best outcome for everybody. I think that's it. I think that's it. Hire more women. That's really what we need. Just get women involved in the process. I mean, yeah, I can say it again. Like, there are a lot of women that have different approaches to their career and quality than I do. And that's awesome. Feminism is not a dot on the-- a dot, a specific point we're moving to. It's a continuum. And it's about all of our voices. And it's about all of our opinions. So just make sure you are doing everything you can to include us. And by the way, I have to mention this. As discriminated as women are in this field, it is much worse for black people, at least in America. their stats are much worse. And I think they face a lot more historical bias. So, you know, this isn't just about women. This is about everyone else. And, you know, this is something I say with the utmost compassion. But I think sometimes when we have these conversations, I think that the kind of white, straight men that have been in charge of this field for so long, I think they're truly unaware of how privileged that they are here. I mean, the entire tech culture has kind of been built in your image. The institutions serve you, the way we network serves you, the products we bring to market serve you, the way we market is to you. And there are all these assumptions that I think you're good people, but I think you're blind to just how much this pyramid has been built for you. And I think as we're going forward, tech is gonna be more inclusive for everyone else. And I think for some people, as tech becomes more diverse, I think it feels like something is being taken away to them personally. Because the truth is the absence of privilege isn't depression, it's equality for everyone. And I think like making an environment where everyone feels comfortable, not just one specific type of person. I'm not without a lot of empathy for what that must feel like, But, you know, it's really important. And, you know, I would urge you just think about what I deal with every day, just trying to get games made with women in them. And, you know, I feel very strongly about this. And, you know, I would just personally appreciate it if your listeners would kind of, you know, think about that and kind of, you know, go outside of themselves and try to think about these problems from someone else's perspective. - Absolutely. And I hope the same as well. And that's one of the reasons that I wanted to talk to you about this, because I know that you are very passionate about it and you've been very vocal about it. And frankly, you've been put through a hell of a lot. And I really do appreciate your time. You're taking the time to talk about this on the show, because I don't know, I sometimes I actually worry that maybe people focus a little bit too much on just this aspect. I want to talk to Brianna about this one thing and lose sight of the fact that Revolution 60 is an awesome game. The truth is that it's both and I do appreciate, I really do appreciate your time to talk about it. I do. Happy to be here. Thank you for having me on. Cool. So if you would like to talk more about this you can reach me on Twitter @JohnCheegee and you can see all of my stuff on my site at techdistortion.com. If you'd like to send me feedback please use the feedback form on the website and that's where you also find the show notes for this episode under podcasts pragmatic. Don't forget about the t-shirts, both genders are catered for. Link in the show notes, grab them while you can. There's only a week left to go, so grab them while you can. I'm probably not going to do it again. Also don't forget about the stickers, also link in the show notes. Check them out. You can also follow Pragmatic Show on Twitter if you'd like to see show announcements and other related stuff. I'd also once again like to thank Brianna so much for coming on the show. What's the best way for people to get in touch with you, Brianna? So Twitter is probably the best way to do that, or you can come see me, just come up and say hey at any number of the professional conferences I'm attending this year. But on Twitter I'm @spacecatgal, so that's space, like outer space, cat, K-A-T, gal, G-A-L. Yeah, it's the cat with a K, don't forget the K. That's it, don't forget the K, it's very critical. Exactly. I'd also like to thank both of the sponsors for this episode. Firstly, Extrasensory Devices, and Luxi for All for sponsoring this episode. The Luxie for All is a compact and lightweight incident light meter attachment for your smartphone or tablet. Visit esdevices.com/pragmatic for more information about their handy Luxie for All and use the coupon code techdistortion for 15% off exclusively for Pragmatic listeners. Taking better pictures starts with your Luxie. And I'd also like to thank lynda.com for once again sponsoring the show. If there's anything you'd like to learn about and you're looking for an easy and affordable way to learn, then lynda.com can help you out. Instantly stream thousands of courses created by experts in their fields of business software, web development, graphic design, and lots and lots more. Kickstart your new year and challenge yourself to learn something new. Visit lynda.com/pragmatic to get a free 10-day trial. There's something for everyone. So if you ever want to learn something new, it's already February. So what are you waiting for? Make sure you check them out. Thanks again for listening, everybody. And thanks again, Bri. - Thank you, it's my pleasure. 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