We believe that promoting diversity and inclusion is the right thing to do.
Diversity and inclusion are more than just words for us. They are the hard-and-fast principles guiding how we will build our teams, cultivate leaders, and create a community that supports everyone in it. No one should ever feel excluded or less welcome because of gender, ethnicity, religion, disability, or background. Experience and social science have shown that diversity can generate better results, in analysis, insight, and professional decision-making.
As professional gamers we are committed to the Derby House Principles:
1) Promoting inclusion and diversity in professional wargaming, through the standards we set, the opportunities we offer, and access to activities we organise.
2) Making clear our opposition to sexism, racism, homophobia, and other forms of discrimination across the board, as well as in wargaming.
3) Encouraging a greater role and higher profile for colleagues from underrepresented groups in our professional activities.
4) Seeking out and listening to the concerns and suggestions of our colleagues as to how our commitment to diversity and inclusion could be enhanced.
5) Demonstrating our commitment to diversity and inclusion through ongoing assessment of progress made and discussion of future steps.
*Derby House in Liverpool was the location of Western Approaches Tactical Unit during WWII.
WATU conducted some of the most consequential wargaming in the history of armed conflict. It was staffed by women from all walks of life, and men considered unfit for duty at sea through illness and injury. Between them was the breadth of tactical, technical, social and cultural knowledge necessary to train naval officers from every Allied nation.
This initiative has been underway since February, when Connections North hosted a panel on diversity and inclusion at its annual conference in Montréal. Thereafter, confronted with examples of misogyny and racism directed at wargaming professionals on social media, a working group was established in mid-May consisting of Kiera Bentley (Connections UK), Rex Brynen (PAXsims/Connections North/McGill University), Sally Davis (PAXsims/Dstl), Tom Mouat (PAXsims/Connections UK/Defence Academy of the UK), Briana Proceviat (PAXsims/Canadian Joint Warfare Centre) and Yuna Wong (RAND) to develop a common vision and language.
These efforts were given new urgency by the killing of George Floyd on May 25 and the subsequent protests in the United States and around the world calling for an end to systemic racial and other discrimination.
We also look to widen the conversation and broaden the coalition for change. If your organization would like to endorse the Derby House Principles, email us to let us know. While we are not accepting individual endorsements, we would encourage readers to promote the statement and the values it represent. If you have ideas, we want to hear them!
As a game designer and facilitator, I have to create a believable environment and tell a compelling story that makes the players — usually United States military and government officials — take the game seriously, believe that their decisions have repercussions and play hard so that the results simulate the real world. I need to take a problem, boil it down to the basics and identify the details that really matter while still leaving enough color to make it interesting…. Too many options make the game ponderously slow, with players never getting a chance to see the results of their decisions; too few choices mean that I have potentially predetermined the game’s outcomes.
But there is something else dictating the available choices in war gaming, and that is a lack of gender diversity. War gaming — as with war more generally — has long been a male domain and has significant barriers to entry, retention and advancement. You can’t learn by reading; you have to learn by doing. Many women — myself included — find themselves doing managerial or administrative work for games in a bid to break into the field and learn about war game design and execution, but they often find themselves stuck in that track. I didn’t grow up playing Axis & Allies or memorizing all the fighter aircraft flown by the United States Air Force, like some of my male colleagues did. These are the sorts of things that started me at a disadvantage. Everything about war gaming and military operations more broadly I have learned as an adult, from scratch, whereas most of my male counterparts have been inadvertently training for this job since they were children. Even now, 10 years into my career, I am still playing catch up. This sense of disadvantage tends to discourage women from joining war gaming teams — let alone the national-security field — because many feel that there is not a clear substantive role for them to play or a path to advancement.
The unspoken gender divide that exists in the war gaming field comes out in funny ways. I know that when people arrive at most of my games, they don’t expect me to stand up and run the game, or to play judge, jury and executioner in deciding combat outcomes. I’m expected to be the note taker or the event coordinator. The number of times I have been asked where coffee is and whether I could fetch it is staggering. I will admit that there is something empowering about being able to command a room and prove my audience wrong. But the thing is, I’m tired of being a rarity. I don’t want to be the only woman in the room running a war game.
I’ve seen subtle but important differences emerge from games led by women or involving women in the design process. For a game exploring future technology, my male colleagues created a list of military capabilities — the order of battle — that focused heavily on systems that could be used to attack and destroy targets. In contrast, an order of battle created by women included more systems — like reconnaissance platforms — that provided better tools to more quickly alert war fighters of adversary activities and locations. This eye toward inclusivity can also be seen when women run games, as female facilitators are more inclined to encourage different voices to contribute to discussion and in turn gain a greater range of insights into the particular problem at hand. It is not so much that female war gamers approach the critical problems differently or focus a game on “soft” security issues like gender and humanitarian affairs. Rather, they are likely to have different perspectives, based in part on their experiences navigating a man’s world. By not having female game designers, facilitators or players, opportunities to uncover new and innovative strategies are falling by the wayside.
The reactions to this @NYTimesAtWar piece—my personal story of trying to navigate a male dominated field—have been overwhelming. It was scary to be this honest, but hearing from folks about how it resonated with them has reminded me why I wrote it.
At the various Connections professional wargaming conferences only 5-10% of panelists are typically female, and about 15% of participants. In hobby wargaming, the proportions are markedly lower and the problem even more severe. In some surveys, only 1-2% or so of hobby wargamers identify as female.
At Connections North last year, 25% of our participants were women—probably because the event is held on campus, and significant numbers of students attended. The social and other barriers to entry to wargaming certainly seems to be lower at universities than in the national security field, with women making up almost half (19/40) students registered in my POLI 452 conflict simulation course next term. It probably also reflects the larger proportion of women in social sciences fields in general, as well as students whose interests are more focused serious games more broadly.
For other resources on gender and other diversity issues in (professional) wargaming, see these previous PAXsims reports:
The game expansion is priced at USD$14.99. To make it more accessible we are also permanently reducing the price of AFTERSHOCK to USD$84.99. Now there’s absolutely no excuse not to buy both—and thereby incorporate gender analysis into your efforts to provide urgent humanitarian assistance to the desperate, earthquake-afflicted people of Carana!
All net proceeds from the sale of AFTERSHOCK and its expansions are donated to United Nations humanitarian agencies. Order a copy now!
From time to time I’ve had several anecdotal discussions with both students and colleagues about the ways in which participation in classroom simulations might be affected by gender. In my annual classroom civil war simulation we once asked an array of pre- and post-simulation questions designed to measure self-reported learning outcomes, and found no significant gender-based differences. I’ve also collectively asked the class whether they think gender shaped participant behaviour. Both men and women tend to split 50/50 on the issue, with around half saying there are significant gender-based differences in simulation styles and participation, and about half disagreeing. I really should study it more systematically in the future.
This article reports on the relationship between gender and participation at the 2010 Southwest Florida Model United Nations (SWFLMUN). Three major findings emerge from this research: (1) Even though more females participated in the SWFLMUN than males, males accounted for most of the speeches and played more decisive roles in the formulation of the committee resolutions; (2) male and female delegates employed similar negotiating styles; and (3) surveys administered to delegates suggest that males and females derived about the same amount of satisfaction from the conference but that males, paradoxically, were more likely to report barriers to participation than females. These results leave the impression that gender is a significant, but unremarked factor in shaping participation. These findings are discussed with respect to a normative conception of Model UN (MUN) as a mode of global citizenship. MUN is designed to overcome national ethnocentrism by affirming the existence of multiple perspectives on world issues and by establishing a deliberative process through which these different interests and perspectives can be negotiated. The results of this research, however, suggest that gender stereotypes may alter the kind of political socialization that is both expressed and reproduced through MUN. Substantive inequalities associated with these stereotypes may be infecting formally inclusive public spheres—such as MUN—with the effect of coding politics as a competitive, male domain.