Women in AR and VR Sydney meetup
Tonight is the launch of a new meetup Women in Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality Sydney proudly supported by Mod. As excitement builds around immersive interactive experience, we want to be part of strengthening the sector by increasing its diversity. Diversity is good for business. For all of us. It means more ideas, greater contribution of talent and innovative ways of doing things.
Australia has some great pioneering women across many experience areas. Think Siobhan Reddy (games, Studio Director, Media Molecule), Lynette Walworth (immersive cinema, Collisions is on at ACMI) and Dr Christy Dena (transmedia, co-director of Forward / Story) for starters.
Yet women do not have equal opportunity in traditional media, let alone in interactive media. For example, even films with female leads can be dominated by male dialogue, as shown in this rather nifty "visual driven essay" on Film Dialogue from Polygraph. When it comes to the games industry a 2013 Australian survey showed that of 581 people employed only 8.7% were women. This is probably an unfortunate legacy of the 1980s when microcomputers were marketed as toys for boys, despite women's take-up of earlier generation computing.
Work is underway to resolve this situation. Screen NSW is on track to hit its target of 50:50 gender equity in development and production funding programs across all formats by 2020. Screen Australia launched the Gender Matters fund this year for projects and businesses with women at the helm. Nonetheless there is still comparatively little public and private investment into interactive media production compared to film & TV.
As a female owned and run studio, Mod recognises the need for ongoing development and empowerment, particularly for female technologists and entrepreneurs and we're proud to be part of the #womeninarvr initiative. Women will play a key role in AR / VR but it can't be left just to female-run organisations and networks to make change happen. Everyone in the media production sector needs to work together towards a more vibrant and diverse industry that includes AR & VR. In Sydney alone there are tonnes of related groups to connect with. Check out the Sydney AR/VR Resource page we've compiled.
We have benefitted from being part of the first web generation in the early 90s, and we love seeing what fellow early adopters get up to with AR and VR technologies. Big opportunities may not be quite here yet but the groundwork is being laid right now for creative, technical and commercial development. The industry can't afford to overlook precious skills, experience and potential on the basis of sex, gender or cultural difference. New mediums don't emerge every day - we have a great opportunity. So ladies, do yourself a favour and put yourselves out there.
As our friends from the recently launched WOW Film Festival put it, "Not here to make friends". We're here to work.
We recognise and celebrate that women have always been players in the media and tech industries. Here are some old-school female pioneers to read up on.
Ada Lovelace (b. 1815)
Often regarded as the first computer programmer - wrote notes on Charles Babbage's Analytical Engine
Grace Hopper (b. 1906)
One of the first programmers of the Harvard Mark I computer in 1944, she invented the first compiler for a computer programming language, and was one of those who popularized the idea of machine-independent programming languages which led to the development of COBOL, one of the first high-level programming languages.
Hedy Lamarr (b. 1914)
Screen siren and developer of a radio guidance system for Allied torpedoes, which used spread spectrum and frequency hopping technology to defeat the threat of jamming by the Axis powers. Her technology now forms part of WiFI, CDMA and Bluetooth.
Margaret Hamilton (b. 1936)
Director of the Software Engineering Division of the MIT Instrumentation Laboratory, which developed on-board flight software for the Apollo space program.
Logo design: Carli Johnston
EDIT - Updated to clarify that Screen NSW equity targets apply to all formats not just film & TV. Big thumbs up.
DISCLOSURES - Mod has received funding from Screen NSW Industry Development towards our upcoming Demo Swap events. I am on the board of the Australia Directors Guild, a recipient of the Screen Australia Gender Matters scheme for commercial and content directing mentorships.