To mark the end of Women’s History Month, we wanted to shed light on remarkable leaders at Xbox who are driving the video games industry forward. While there is more work to do to improve the representation of women in this industry, it is brilliant to see that women make up over half of Microsoft’s Xbox gaming leadership team. Here, we spoke with Xbox leaders Tania Chee & Eve Oorloff about their career journey, the importance of promoting gender equity in the video games industry, and advice for other women aspiring to break into the field.
Tania Chee is the Director of Gaming Category for Australia and New Zealand. With a 20+ year career, including 14 years with Xbox, Tania has been involved in the success of multiple console generations and launches. She is passionate about diversity and inclusion, supporting Women in Gaming and Gaming for Everyone initiatives.
Eve Oorloff is the Category Lead of Xbox Game Studios in Asia. Eve has a career spanning more than 10 years in the Video Games and Home Entertainment industries, having worked across leading brands in both spaces. She wants to break down barriers and challenge common misconceptions in gaming, to make the community a more welcoming and diverse place for everyone.
What have been the highlights of your career journey at Xbox?
Tania: I have been privileged enough to work on team Xbox for 15 years across multiple markets. There have been so many highlights but the ones that stand out to me have been working on our console launches and watching the fan excitement and engagement across multiple generations. The other highlights have been sitting in this seat whilst the industry has dramatically evolved, not only in culture as we foster diversity and inclusion as a priority more than ever, but also watching new business models evolve such as how subscription services for gaming have grown to become a huge part of the ecosystem.
Eve: Working at Xbox is a career highlight in general! Being surrounded by a passionate team that champions diversity and is genuinely dedicated to channelling women’s potential to drive meaningful change in the industry continues to inspire me. Picking one moment however I’d say attending our first “in-person” community event in several years – the Xbox & Bethesda Games Showcase in June 2022 – was a galvanising career moment. Our local team went to incredible efforts to create a truly memorable community experience, and the atmosphere was electric.
What inspired you to pursue a career in the video games industry?
Tania: Just before I started working on the Xbox gaming business I was working at Microsoft in the UK on other consumer products and I remember being drawn to the Xbox team because the work they did on a product and a consumer engagement level was fast-paced, inspiring and fun. Eventually, I was fortunate enough to gain a role in that team and have been lucky enough to spend most of my career to date within this dynamic industry.
Being a huge advocate of Microsoft’s Women in Gaming and Gaming for Everyone initiatives ensures that I can also use my role as a platform to ensure all voices are heard within the industry.
Eve: Video games have always been one of my favourite past times, and I have so many great memories of gaming together with friends and family. While some might associate gaming with alone time (and I certainly enjoy playing games solo too) I’m passionate about the potential of video games to bring people together and foster social moments. Working in gaming retail while I was completing my university studies, it was illuminating to see how many parents were worried about their children playing video games, not wanting them to be “that kid in their dark basement playing video games alone.” Being able to change their perspective by talking them through the social and interactive elements solidified that games were where I wanted to take my professional career.
A 2022 IGEA Digital Australia report revealed that 46% of gamers identified as female, yet only 16% of women hold executive positions in the games industry globally. How important do you think it is to have more women in leadership positions in the video games industry, and why?
Eve: By increasing diversity and representation in the people who make games, we can create new and unique gaming experiences for everyone. While there is more work to do, at Xbox, women make up over half of our gaming leadership team and are forging the future of gaming.
Microsoft’s mission is to enable everyone on the planet to achieve more. And at Xbox, Gaming for Everyone is our commitment to making Xbox a place where everyone has fun. This includes ensuring that women are heard and involved in every aspect of the business. Quite simply, when you include multiple perspectives and have a diverse group of leaders, this results in better games, which ultimately benefit the players and the industry at large.
What advice do you have for other women hoping to break into the video games industry?
Tania: I would advise you on building your networks, whether it be at university, in your current job, or with identified people within the industry. Be brave and pursue work experience opportunities – whether it be shadowing or asking for mentoring. Finally, back your capability – women suffer from imposter syndrome much more in my experience, especially from a young age.
Eve: Your perspective is what this industry needs, so use it to your advantage. Get out amongst the community and get to know the teams locally who are making games because, like any industry, networking is important.
Do you believe that the lack of diversity in the gaming industry impacts the overall gaming experience for players?
Tania: Absolutely, as Phil Spencer has previously said, in the games industry, we have seen tremendous results when women are empowered in key roles of leadership, development, design, and across the entire creative team. Xbox is committed to bringing more women into gaming and fostering an inclusive community. It not only makes for a better industry, but better games for players to enjoy. Quite simply, when you include multiple perspectives and have a diverse group of leaders, this results in better games, which ultimately benefit the players and the industry at large.
You are both incredible supporters of Xbox’s efforts for Women in Gaming and the Gaming For Everyone program, could you tell us more about the impact of these programs?
Eve: Gaming for Everyone is our commitment to making Xbox a place where everyone has fun. It’s our ongoing focus on bringing intentional, inclusive practices and thinking to everything we do at Xbox—from the team to the products we make and the stories we tell, to the way our players interact with those products and engage their wider community.
As part of Gaming for Everyone, Xbox has created inclusive community groups that aim to empower employees from underrepresented communities, amplify their voices, facilitate an understanding of diverse perspectives, and strengthen employee development and retention so people from underrepresented communities are no longer underrepresented in gaming. Women in Gaming make up a part of this group.
The Gaming for Everyone mission is evident in the way we work and has brought to life some great initiatives. In 2022, we launched a mentoring program, “Xbox Mentoring: Kickstart Your Career” that is for everyone and is aimed at partnering women in leadership across Xbox’s diverse range of studios and products with aspiring talent. Those in the program were offered access to valuable 1:1 coaching sessions with key industry leaders such as in Australia and New Zealand.
Beyond this, we know that to ensure we have diversity in our innovation, we need to have the diversity of our people to truly define the next wave of technology and reach more gamers. That is why we believe it’s important to support and recruit women who study STEM subjects and progress into technology roles. We do this through:
- We have a rich community of Employee Resource Groups for Microsoft employees who are women, including [email protected] and Women in Gaming that provide career development, support, networking opportunities, mentoring, community participation, product input, and assistance in activities that promote cultural awareness.
- We spark young people’s interest in technology careers through our partnerships with Girls Who Code and Black Girls Code (349 schools/29 states/12,000 students of diverse backgrounds) and our DigiGirlz program gives tech training to middle and high school girls to learn about careers in technology, connect with Microsoft employees, and participate in hands-on computer and technology workshops. The Technology Education and Literacy in Schools (TEALS) program led by Microsoft helps high schools build and grow sustainable computer science programs.
There is more work to do, but we are committed to building an inclusive and diverse gaming industry.
How do you think the industry as a whole can improve the representation of women and other underrepresented groups?
Tania: As an industry, we need to improve the inclusiveness of hiring processes and the organizational culture once people are in their roles. At Xbox, we know that to ensure we have diversity in our innovation, we need to have the diversity of our people to truly define the next wave of technology that will reach more than 3 billion gamers worldwide! That is why we believe it’s important to support and recruit women who study STEM subjects and progress into technology roles.
We thank Tania and Eve for sharing their valuable industry insights with us.