Women in Games International (WIGI) is a nonprofit organisation on a mission to advance economic equality and diversity in the global games industry. WIGI works to normalise women, femme-identifying, and nonbinary professionals in the global games industry by eliminating barriers to entry, providing resources, and increasing access to opportunities for everyone.
Under the tutelage of CEO Joanie Kraut, WIGI champions safe, inclusive, and diverse workforces in the video game, tabletop, and esports industries by developing and cultivating free-to-access resources.
WIGI Over the Years
What started as a panel in 2003 to highlight and amplify the voices of women in the games industry generated enough interest to form an entire conference. As a result, the Women’s Game Conference launched in September 2004 with all mixed-gender panels, 165 women in attendance, and a keynote from the Director of the Entertainment Software Association, Patricia Vance. In 2005, the team behind the Women’s Game Conference came together at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco to define and create the nonprofit Women in Games International, or WIGI (which has no affiliation to UK-based organisation Women in Games).
In October 2020, Joanie Kraut was promoted from Chief Financial Officer to Chief Executive Officer. She led the organisation’s rebranding, assembled a dynamic Board of experts, and overhauled the nonprofit’s portfolio to include over 90 programmes, workshops, panels, and initiatives.
Transforming the Approach
Identifying the problem is the easy part — the dearth of women in esports is self-evident. The hard part is deciding how to enact change. One of the biggest transformations that WIGI underwent was critically appraising its approach to the industry, and who was actually benefiting from the opportunities it was creating.
From the beginning, WIGI had been dedicated to supporting women in the games industry by defining and eliminating barriers to entry, retention, and succession. “We want to see more diversity in the C-suite, running studios, making games, and making decisions,” Joanie Kraut, WIGI’s CEO, told The Esports Journal. “We needed a new approach to bring in more diverse voices for stronger, more meaningful representation, which is why we shifted our approach to defining and developing our programmes portfolio.”
And shift they did. WIGI’s evolution included collaborating with industry experts at various stages of their careers to ideate and define key points of learning. “We created a programme portfolio based around the concept of ‘I wish I had known X at Y stage of my career’. We asked everyone from mid-manager to C-suite executives what they wish they had known while navigating the industry. We were essentially defining cheat codes for the next generation of games industry leaders,” said Kraut.
“WIGI has a unique demographic in that our target audience ranges from entry-level people trying to get into the industry, to those looking to move up within the industry. We wanted to create resources to support individuals at all stages of their careers.”
WIGI worked with Evil Geniuses to develop and launch the Press Forward initiative, an educational summit series that creates stronger representation for girls in gaming and esports. On April 24th 2022, WIGI and EG launched the first event in the series which featured keynote speeches, panels, open Q&A’s with Riot Games, 343 Industries, and more, as well as resume review, recruiter feedback, and networking.
WIGI partnered with several conferences to run Get in the Game programs throughout 2022, including at DICE, GDC, ESI Washington DC, ESI London, and more. WIGI’s Get in the Game programme specialises in enabling people who otherwise couldn’t afford it the opportunity to attend industry conferences with a focus on impactful networking with industry professionals.
Big Names, Big Support
WIGI’s work and resulting recognition in the scene has seen them become the recipient of grants and sponsors from some of the biggest names in the gaming sector. From Razer and Google to Activision Blizzard and Sony, sponsor involvement and support has been instrumental in the nonprofit’s recent development.
As a nonprofit, it is grants and fundraising that make the work they do possible.
“Closing the gender gap, which is essential for social and economic equity, and helping girls and women excel in a sector where they’ve historically been underrepresented, is among our top priorities at Humble and a core reason why we’re partnering with organisations like WIGI,” Kamini Tiwari, the Vice President of Social Impact & Chief of Staff at Humble Bundle, told The Esports Journal via email. “It’s been incredibly rewarding to hear the stories of the girls and women who have benefited from their work.”
Image credit: Shutterstock
Thanks to a $1m (~£840,000) grant from Activision Blizzard, support from Humble Bundle, various donations and community support, WIGI approached 2022 with grander scope and reach than it previously had. Given the improved ability to effect real change and make a difference, they began what Joanie described as ‘WIGI’s R&D year’, a year to test out ideas and find out what drives the most impact and removes the most barriers. Looking back at their programs and events calendar for 2022, it’s safe to say they achieved their goal.
With an impressive schedule of mentorship programmes, online classes, podcasts, and further outreach routes such as Twitch streams and event sponsorships, WIGI travelled the world in 2022 from its base in the USA to London, Germany, Amsterdam, Korea, Singapore and more.
“One of the biggest changes we made in 2022 is really taking a look at each platform that we were on — YouTube, Twitch, LinkedIn, etc. — and we asked ourselves if we were best connecting with our audience there,” said Kendryx Linscott, WIGI’s Chief Marketing Officer. “And if it didn’t make sense, where would it best live?” This led WIGI to diversify its content on different platforms, in line with its goal of serving the widest possible audience.
“We really wanted to play with our content this year and showcase that it’s possible to make career-focused content that’s engaging and fun,” Linscott explained. “Whether it’s through our Staff Streams on Twitch where we play games like Fortnite or Dead by Daylight or with our video content that isn’t dry and stuffy, we really demonstrated to our community and the industry that [you] can reach our career goals and have fun while you do it!”
Image credit: Shutterstock
How an esports coach levelled up through the WIGI Mentorship Program
The Esports Journal sat down with Jaquie Lamm, a WIGI mentee, and asked about her experience going through WIGI’s Get in the Game Mentorship Program.
Hi, my name is Jacquie Lamm and I am the assistant director & head coach for Minnesota State University, Mankato. I had my son in May 2022, and during my entire pregnancy I was worried that when I came back to work, the dynamic would be different because I took maternity leave.
When I applied for the Get In The Game program, I really didn’t think I would get picked. I opened the email stating that I was selected to be a mentee for the program. I literally ran downstairs and happy jumped to my husband and cried.
I have never had a better experience with a program or conference than what WIGI provided and what ESI London brought. I believe I am a mentor in the collegiate esports world, but in the esports industry as a whole, I’m still learning. By being a mentee, I was able to hear from industry experts, gain confidence in myself when speaking to others, and so much more.
I was at a breaking point before being selected for the Get In The Game program. All because I felt like by taking time off after having a kid would put me at a disadvantage in the esports world. I can’t thank WIGI enough for selecting me to be a mentee.
The Future of WIGI
After the incredible year they have had, it’s evident that WIGI won’t be slowing down any time soon. As long as there are women being underserved in the games industry, the nonprofit is committed to working tirelessly to provide resources, programmes, and advice to aid the community and drive the industry forward.
“In the past year WIGI has expanded their programming to provide high-quality mentorship and leadership training experiences for women coming up in the business,” noted Jen Oneal, WIGI Board member and longtime games industry executive. “For myself, I find it equally rewarding to participate as a mentor. I get to work with women who are motivated and eager to learn and advance their career and I get to expand my personal network with the mentees and other mentors. For large companies this is a great way for women to network outside of their organization and for small companies this is a fantastic resource for those who may not have their own women’s employee networks and need access to leadership training.”
To find out more about WIGI and how to get involved, visit https://www.getwigi.com/ or follow WIGI on their social media channels.