Rockstar North is video game company with worst reported gender pay gap in UK

With the deadline for reporting gender pay gaps having now passed, Grand Theft Auto developer Rockstar North has emerged as the video game developer with the worst reported gender pay gap in the UK.

Last Updated (Thursday March 5): A previous version of this article named Crackdown 3 developer Sumo Digital as the video game company with the worse reported gender pay gap in the UK video game industry. Since the original publish date Rockstar North has released its report revealing that the GTA developer is instead top of the list. We have updated the article to reflect this development.

According to the company’s gender pay gap report, the average (mean) hourly rate of Rockstar North’s female members of staff is 64% lower than men, a disparity that’s significantly worse than the UK’s average rate of 18.4%.

Other video game companies with gender pay gaps higher than the national average include Sumo Digital (33.7%), Warner Bros. Entertainment UK (30.9%) and Codemasters (22.2%).

Rockstar North’s difference in median salaries is a lot less severe at 31.8%. This suggests that the company’s mean difference is being affected by a small number of extremely high salaries. On a median basis, Sumo Digital has the worst gap in the UK with 34.5%.

In an accompanying report, Rockstar North said “We are dedicated to continuing to build a representative gender balance across all our studio activities, and pledge to continue to find new ways to support and encourage women to both take up and advance in career opportunities in game development”.

The GTA developer also said that it was committed to a number of policies including equal opportunities recruitment, remuneration on skills and merit, family-friendly benefits and a safe working environment.

It was much better news for a number of companies that came in under the national average. Although not specifically video game focussed, Microsoft had a mean pay gap of just 6.6%, while Sony Interactive Entertainment Europe had a gap of 12.8%. Electronic Arts reports a pay gap of 13.7%, similar to Namco UK’s 14.5%.

No mention is made in the government’s data of trans employees or employees who prefer not to identify themselves as male or female.

Only companies with 250 employees or more are required to submit this data, which means that smaller British studios like Ninja Theory, Rocksteady and Playground Games are exempt. These smaller companies may have a gender pay gap that’s worse than Rockstar North’s, but unfortunately they’re not obliged to report this information. 

In the future we’d like to see the gender pay gap reduce to zero, but compared to the rest of the UK, it is at least comforting to know that companies such as Rockstar North, Sumo Digital and Warner Bros. with such garish disparities represent outliers.

This data was compiled by Jessica Hyland, a video game artist at Wonderstruck Games. Last year the UK government made it mandatory for any company with more than 250 employees to report its gender pay gap. Although the data has been made publically available online, Hyland has been instrumental in gathering data specific to the games industry.

Unpacking the reasons

When discussing the gender pay gap it’s important to realise that we’re not talking about men and women being paid differently for doing exactly the same role. Instead, the gender pay gap is discussing average pay, which has two main causes, namely horizontal and vertical segregation.

Vertical segregation (otherwise known as the ‘glass ceiling’) is what most people think of when they think of the gender pay gap, and it describes the way senior positions tend to be dominated by men.

Hyland points to a variety of reasons why women might not be reaching these more senior levels in the video game industry. For example, a culture of crushingly long working hours hits women hardest when they’re still expected to shoulder the burden for most domestic chores when they get home (often referred to as ‘The Second Shift’).

However, in some cases Hyland points towards old fashioned sexism as being at the root of at least some of these issues.

“The overt sexual harassment and uncomfortably laddish atmospheres that I’ve heard about from so many women in so many studios around the world has certainly driven some away from careers in this industry,” she laments, “Even if that’s on the decline, as I hope it is, it still happens far too often and has long-lasting effects on women’s lives and careers as well as the studios they leave.”

Horizontal segregation is another common reason for gender pay gaps, and describes the way roles that are male dominated tend to pay more than roles that are female dominated, despite them frequently requiring similar amounts of skill.

Hyland believes horizontal segregation may have something to do with explaining the video game industry’s gender pay gap problem. “Women are drastically under-represented in programming jobs at all levels,” she explains, before noting that, “programmers, particularly seniors and leads, tend to be the best paid of all development roles.”

She adds that other areas such as support, HR, and administration tend to be female dominated and that despite these requiring a great deal of organisation and interpersonal skills they pay far less well than other male-dominated portions of the industry.

A common response to this problem has been for people to say that it’s inevitable for these roles (that just so happen to be female dominated) to pay less, but historical examples show that in many cases there are sectors that pay less as a direct result of them being female dominated, rather than the other way around.

Compared to the likes of RyanAir, which has a startling 72% gender pay gap, the video game industry seems to be making much better progress towards achieving pay equality between men and women.

Hyland has a number of suggestions as to how this could be achieved, ranging from long-term goals of getting more women into technical roles, to short term policies such as more clearly defining “job roles, salary bands, objective criteria for progression and bonuses.”

There’s still a lot of work to be done, but having this information at the industry’s disposal is a good first step towards identifying the issue and working to solve them.

What do you think needs to be done to solve the gender pay gap problem? Let us know @TrustedReviews