Creating Opportunities and Advancement for Women in the Gaming Industry With Joanie Kraut

Joanie Kraut is the CEO at Women In Gaming International, a platform dedicated to cultivating resources for advancing economic equality and diversity in the global games industry. She has offered her talents in various tech and gaming verticals, including consulting studios, startups, and nonprofits. Joanie is a thought leader in finance, DEI, and the advancement of women in leadership. In 2019, CalCPA recognized her with the Women to Watch in Finance & Accounting, Experienced Leader Award, and in 2020, GCIF and Prism Events named her the Top 100 Global Leaders in Finance. Joanie was also recognized by CEO Monthly as the Most Influential CEO of 2022 and named the Top 50 Women Leaders of Los Angeles by Women We Admire in 2023.

Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn: 

  • Joanie Kraut discusses the mission of Women in Gaming International (WIGI)
  • What is the Get in the Game initiative?
  • The continuous challenges in the gaming space that need addressing
  • Tips for building a personal brand and overcoming imposter syndrome
  • WIGI mentorship program success stories
  • Joanie expounds on WIGI’s Dear Ally and creating an inclusive workspace
  • The future of the gaming industry
  • Advice for aspiring tech entrepreneurs
  • Career advancement strategies
  • The differences between a sponsor, mentor, and coach

In this episode…

Women have been omitted from the gaming industry’s history for years, making up less than 24% of the workforce. Meanwhile, females account for 48% of the gaming community, proving that women are interested in working in the field. How can the recruitment of women in gaming improve?

After participating in numerous panel discussions on women in gaming, Joanie Kraut founded Women in International Gaming, providing free resources to a global community of 38,000 members in 78 countries. WIGI operates over 90 workshops, panels, programs, and initiatives, including Get in the Program, which has a 90% successful recruiting rate. The initiative helps participants craft resumes, cover letters, and portfolios. Additionally, it helps them polish their interview skills and introduces the women to a network of seasoned industry professionals. Joanie shares that while drafting well-written CVs is vital, applicants must work on their personal brand by cleaning up their social media. She suggests posting accomplishments and accolades such as earned degrees, certificates, and relevant events you’ve attended that illustrate your dedication to the industry.

In this episode of the Here’s Waldo Podcast with Lizzie Mintus, she talks to Joanie Kraut, CEO at Women in Gaming International (WIGI), about the advancement of women in the tech and gaming industry. Joanie discusses WIGI’s Get in the Game initiative, tips for building a personal brand and overcoming imposter syndrome, and career advancement strategies.

Resources Mentioned in this episode

Sponsor for this episode...

This episode is brought to you by Here’s Waldo Recruiting, a boutique recruitment firm specializing in the video game industry that prioritizes quality over quantity and values transparency, communication, and diversity. We partner with companies, creatives, and programmers to understand the why behind their needs and provide a white-glove experience that ensures a win-win outcome.

The industry evolves. The market changes. But at Here’s Waldo Recruiting, our commitment to happy candidates and clients does not. 

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Episode Transcript

Welcome to the Here's Waldo Podcast, where we sit down with top visionaries and creatives in the video game industry. Together, we'll unravel their journeys and learn more about the path they're forging ahead. Now, let's get started with the show.

Lizzie Mintus: I'm lizzie Mintus, founder and CEO of Here's Waldo Recruiting, a boutique video game recruitment firm. This is the Here's Waldo Podcast. In every episode, we dive deep into conversations with creatives, founders and executives about what it takes to be successful. You can expect to hear valuable lessons from their journey and get a glimpse into the future of the industry.

This episode is brought to you by Here's Waldo Recruiting. We value quality over quantity, transparency, communication, and diversity. We partner with companies, creatives, and programmers to understand the why behind their needs. We provide a white glove experience that ensures a win outcome.

Today, we have Joanie Kraut with us. Joanie is the CEO of Women in Games International, otherwise known as WIGI, a nonprofit organization with a mission to cultivate resources that advance economic equity and diversity in the global video game, tabletop, and esports industries. She also serves as a board member and advisor for TechBridge Girls, the ESI Clutch, Wonder Woman Tech Foundation, and California State University for Big Data and E Sports Programming.

She was recognized as one of the top hundred women of the future in emerging tech in 2023, the most influential CEO of 2022 by CEO Monthly and one of the top 50 women leaders of Los Angeles by Women We Admire.

Let's get started. Hi, Joanie. Thanks for being here.

Joanie Kraut: Thanks for inviting me.

Lizzie Mintus: Yeah. Can you, first of all, tell us a little bit about WIGI?

Joanie Kraut: Absolutely. Women in Games International was founded at GDC in 2005. We had a panel in 2003 talking about the nuances of being a woman in the industry, and really just having that conversation about how when women weren't being recognized for their contributions. They were often being omitted from history.

So in 2005, the conversation was, women are just now getting into the industry. And we were like that's not true. It's not accurate.

And so 2003, we had the panel. In 2004, we got together to have the same panel again. And in 2005, when we got together to have the same panel for the third time, three women went, what are we doing?

And so they founded Women in Games International and WIGI is really focused on two main things, one being community and the other being resources. We create and provide free to access resources to our global community. We have over 38,000 people worldwide, and we're in over 78 countries at this time.

Lizzie Mintus: Wow. I know you have so many different programs that people can get involved in. Please walk me through what's current, what's coming.

Joanie Kraut: Absolutely. So we ran over 90 programs, workshops, panels, and initiatives in 2022. Some of our favorite and most popular are getting the game program, which was really founded based on the concept of- sometimes the free tickets not enough to get you to a conference. And so our get in the game program really paves the way to get people who otherwise couldn't afford it to these conferences to get that impactful networking.

We cover the cost of a flight, a per diem, a hotel, and every morning we get together and we have these accountability mentorship breakfasts. We talk about the day. We talk about our goals. We talk about accountability and making sure we met the goals from the prior day. It's everything small as teaching somebody how to introduce themselves.

We teach the 3 sentence approach to introducing yourself, which is what is your name? What do you want to be known for? And what do you want out of this conversation? And those 3 things can make the most powerful, impactful way to communicate and also let somebody know this is what I'm trying to do. This is what I'm trying to accomplish, so I know immediately either I can help you or I can introduce you to somebody who can help you. That might not be my area, but let me show you somebody over here that would definitely be the right person.

The program has a 90 percent success rate, and that 90 percent of all participants receive a job offer within two weeks of the program's close. When we went to GDC, we brought 11 women, and six of them actually had job interviews at GDC. Three of them had job offers before we left GDC.

It's a really impactful program, and it's an opportunity to just show people how to open the door for themselves. It's been a really great program. We also have the mentorship program. We have one coming up in Q4 sponsored by Amazon Games, and it's an opportunity to really get people in the industry.

So we're working with their recruiting team and a couple other recruiters, and we're going to talk about everything from crafting your resume to having a portfolio, having a cover letter, how to nail the interview, what do you need to say, what should you not say, and how do you answer those maybe uncomfortable questions or difficult questions. Tell me about yourself is my least favorite question.

So how do you navigate that? We also want to talk about negotiating your salary and what that means and what that looks like and why it's okay to do that. We want to talk about personal branding, actually posting on social media, taking up that space to say, Hey, I'm doing this thing over here. And that's all part of your personal branding.

What's important to you? What is it that you, you want to see out of your career? And what is it that you're already working on? I'm very excited for this one. I feel like every time we do a mentorship program and we do a portion of on your resume and your cover letter, people are like, can we just make this the whole program? Because there's so much as that you can cover when it comes to applying for a job. We also have every Wednesday we have new content. So we have WIGI Wednesday. We have our newsletter that goes out every Wednesday. We also have Cheat Codes, which is our podcast hosted by Tosh, which is on Spotify and YouTube.

She just has amazing conversations with industry professionals, really defining what are those cheat codes? How can you get ahead in the industry? What is something that you've learned that has really helped and guided your career? We also have power leveling, which is currently being hosted by Aphasia, an amazing individual who is also a content creator.

So really understands being in front of people that forward facing aspect, and having conversations that are more difficult or uncomfortable. So those are not recorded and held on zoom specifically to foster that safe environment and an opportunity to say things that maybe you can ask questions anonymously as needed.

We also have open world dialogue and it's a conversation on LinkedIn live to really communicate with and have our community jump into those conversations with different companies. A lot of times we've been doing a series lately where it's- what do you do? So what does an engineer in the games industry really do? What does that mean? What does that look like? What is a producer? What does that mean? What is a voice actress? Our next one coming up is a voice actress who's just absolutely amazing. Allison Packard and she's Rose in Call of Duty. She is a blood elf in Warcraft. What does that mean? What does that look like? What is your career trajectory look like? How do you stay relevant? You're asking those conversations and really getting that in front of our community.

And then the interview session, which is an amazing opportunity to interview the interviewer. What would make you throw away my resume? What would make you immediately say, I need to interview this person? What should I ask during an interview? Those kinds of questions and being able to specifically ask one company, what is their preference? Because each company is different, and different preferences from company to company.

An indie is going to be different from a Triple A, differences in recruiting preferences. So having the opportunity to ask the company you want to work for, what is your dream company and asking them, how do you get ahead of that in that game?

Lizzie Mintus: I love that. That's opening a lot of doors. It's also confusing when you're a job seeker or when you don't even really know where to start.

Joanie Kraut: Absolutely.

Lizzie Mintus: I love that. What was the state of WIGI when you joined? Are most of these programs relatively new? How long has this been around?

Joanie Kraut: Yeah, I started with WIGI about five years ago, and we had two events and that was it. So it was two networking events, one at GDC in San Francisco and one at E3 in Los Angeles. And so even though they were free to get into, you had to have enough money to get there. And these 2 are like the most expensive cities in the world.

I don't know about the world. Okay. That was dramatic, but in the country, I would say. It's really hard to create the opportunity to get there. If you weren't already at GDC, or if you weren't any at E3, which GDC being 1 of the most expensive conferences- it didn't feel right to me.

I grew up in poverty. And so I remember my mom saying, we had free tickets to get to the circus and we couldn't go. She couldn't afford free tickets and she was devastated, but it's not just the free ticket. It's getting there. It's the gas to get there. It's the parking fee. It's making sure you have the right clothing.

And then a lot of times we would have women show up and it took so much to get there. And then they didn't know how to introduce themselves. They didn't know how to interact. These clicks would form. If you're a wallflower, if you're an introvert, that might not be your space that might not be your place to shine.

Teaching people how to actually use this as an opportunity to get ahead and to build their network has been one of my biggest things that I really want to pivot and change that narrative. All of our programming is pretty much new. Even our networking events are slightly tweaked and that we really focus on things like speed networking and trying to create a space maybe during daytime hours instead of the pressure of the nighttime events.

We pretty much completely revamped the entire program's portfolio and added a lot. We're still listening to our community and our board just to make sure that we're having the right conversations and running the programs that are most effective.

Lizzie Mintus: I love that. Okay, so if somebody wants to introduce themselves, I know there are so many introverts and people that feel uncomfortable.

You say, hi, I'm Lizzie. Here's what I want to talk about and here's what I hope to do.

Joanie Kraut: Yeah, so hi, I'm Joanie. What's your name? What do you want to be known for? I'm the CEO at WIGI. What do you want under the conversation? I'm running a get in the game program. I would love to introduce you to my mentees.

I'm looking for a job. I'm trying to get a job in a specific area or I'm trying to build my network and I would love to understand what it is that do. What is it that you're trying to get out of that conversation?

Lizzie Mintus: Yeah. I like that. I like creating a framework that people can follow. I feel like there's so much anxiety around the unknown.

Joanie Kraut: Absolutely. And so many people want to share their stories. People get nervous to introduce themselves with them once you start talking. Somebody's Oh my gosh, you want to know about me?

I would love to tell you about me. Nobody ever asked about me.

Lizzie Mintus: I'm such an extrovert and I go to social events. I went to this VC networking event a few weeks ago and within the first three minutes, I'm always I think maybe I should leave. I think I don't want to be here. And then I start talking to people and warming up and it gets better and better, but I'm on the other side of things.

So I can't imagine.

Joanie Kraut: Absolutely. And I think people talk about being an introvert or an extrovert, but I feel like there's a lot of people that are totally introverted, but they can pretend to be extroverted when they need to. And I feel like that's where I sit. And so I'm like, I'm pretending when I want to be here, but I just want to go home and snuggle up with a book in front of the fireplace.

So I think just remembering that you're there for yourself and you're there to really build your network for your career, instead of I'm there here to have fun. If that makes sense. I created like a side mission and I'm like, okay, I just have to get this done and I can go on back on to the main class and

Lizzie Mintus: I can leave. For sure. In your view, what are some of the biggest challenges that still need to be addressed in the game and tech space.

Joanie Kraut: I think there's a lot of conversations around how we need to come together and we need to realize that we're all in this together. We have these separation of women only events and female only things.

It's very uncomfortable because it's creating that conversation and continuing that conversation, an idea that women are separate, and whether that's a good thing or a bad thing, whether they're equal, whether they're supposed to be above or below it. It's that they're separate and that's normal and we're normalizing that separation.

And so having these events, having these opportunities to come together where everybody has a seat at the table, where there's a conversation that everyone can join into. When we have the women only events, where do non binary or, gender non conforming people fit in?

Why are males not being part of the conversation? Why would that be equality? That doesn't make sense to me. So having these spaces where we have allies, where we have women, where we have non binary, where we have feminine identifying and masculine identifying, we coming together to have that opportunity to really learn from each other, I think is the biggest thing that we're really trying to focus on with all of our programming.

We had an eSports mentorship program and we really highlighted and amplified, we want everybody to be part of this program and we have the most male identifying applicants to be mentors and speakers that we've ever had on any other program. And it was a really powerful opportunity to take a step back and just be like, Okay, everybody wants to see more people in eSports.

It's not just women saying we want a bigger space in eSports. It's everybody saying I want you to take that step forward, too. And here's what I learned. And here are my cheat codes that I can share with you. Just really empowering people to to take that step forward. I think one of the biggest things from my perspective is this systematic idea and this thing that's been pushed on people that you're not supposed to take up space.

You're not supposed to celebrate your accomplishments. You're just being too boastful or it's being arrogant. So I'm really trying to change that. That conversation into- yes, you should be posting. You should be taking up that space. You should be talking about what you're doing. And it's more than just you saying, Hey, I did a thing; it's your personal brand. It's the opportunity to share what's important to you. It's an opportunity to showcase that you are doing things on your own and that you wouldn't need somebody to hold your hand to do that, which is really great to share with an employer ahead of applying for a job as well.

Lizzie Mintus: Yeah, it's so important. Do you have any other tips for building your personal brand? I talked to people about this all the time. Have your LinkedIn filled out. Post your portfolio. But other than that, how do you think people can maybe even identify their true brand like find their true self and then convey that to the world?

Joanie Kraut: I think it's really hard because a lot of times people are going, "but I don't know who I am". I don't know what my brand is. I don't know what I should be posting and for me, it was always doing the research and then like you said, templatizing it. Where is the template for this? But there's not because it's your personal brand. It's not a specific box you're supposed to fit in.

I would say my biggest advice is think before you post. There's a lot of things I want to say, but I realized maybe it's not the space to say them. Making sure that what you're posting is something you will want to defend in five years and it's something that is truly important to you enough to, you delete it off the internet, it's never really deleted off the internet.

Be mindful of what you're saying and postings are important to you. One of the biggest things that we really teach is posting when you do something, posting an accomplishment, I earned this degree, I earned this certificate, I attended this program, and I got this learning from it. Making sure that you are adding your thoughts and adding your ideas to posts is a really powerful way to get in front of people as well. Really taking up that space.

We have so many people that say, I have no experience, but they've created six games during their college career. You do have experience. Talk about those games. Talk about your contributions to those games. Content creators, I don't have any professional experience. Disagree. If you've built an entire discord and you built an entire community and you have all of these followers and all these people engaging with you every time you stream, you have professional capacity. You have experience and you can call that community management.

You can call that talent, online personality, and that's a huge difficult thing to do. That's a huge asset and an opportunity to help contribute to a company.

Lizzie Mintus: Yeah, I think people have a hard time celebrating their wins and men and women also do this very differently, right? Posting about what they do and feel confident to share that. That's always a really big conversation.

What do you see happening in the near future? And then the next 5 years, what direction do you see women in games, or just inclusivity in the industry. How do you see that?

Joanie Kraut: We've seen a huge uptick in applicants from the Middle East and Southeast Asia.

We've seen a lot of women that say, I want a mentor who looks like me, but I can't find one in my geographic region. So we're really trying to reach out to build a stronger community there so that we can say, there is somebody in your geographic region, because I know there is, I just need to find them.

So we're really trying to build that out and then empower people from all walks of life. A lot of times we have our programming specifically for the U. S. and Northern Europe time zones. And so we're really shifting to include more countries and more time zones that make more sense.

We are shifting some of our programming to be more, Singapore and Southeast Asia then the Middle East. That's one thing that we're really shifting right now and we're seeing a huge response from, which is really great.

We're running a program with Epic right now focused on technical expertise, getting that mentorship, getting that guidance, creating an actual thing that you can tangibly walk away with at the end of the program, whether it's a natural game or a tool that you can use in a game or a concept that can be applied to this.

It's a technical skill, but it's also mentorship on a professional level. And so creating those opportunities for people who maybe don't have as much access to those kinds of opportunities is something that I really want to see us moving into even more in the next five years.

And then we're just trying to run more programming. We started off bringing five people to a conference. We've now gotten to the point where we can bring up to 15. I would love to expand that to bring even more people because I just feel like it's such a powerful program that is really a tangible takeaway of getting a job of landing that career in the industry, but also building your network and having that opportunity to speak.

 That's the biggest things that I want to shift into making sure that we have that impact and making sure that we have the programming everywhere that it's really needed.

Lizzie Mintus: I love that. In terms of imposter syndrome, I know a lot of people struggle with that. Even all the most successful women that I know struggle with it. What advice do you have for overcoming that or if you have a personal story about it to share?

Joanie Kraut: When I was starting off on my career, I thought if you were a CEO, you knew everything. And I couldn't figure out how you would just know everything. So that never even felt like it was a trajectory for me. I thought I could never know as much as this human being knows. They're so massive and just have all this knowledge.

I think for me, the biggest thing for imposter syndrome was seeing somebody that I felt was on this pedestal, was just so far beyond anything I could ever attain. And seeing them have a breakdown because they had imposter syndrome so badly.

And it was just that eye opening. You have that voice in your head too. I had no idea that you wouldn't think you were enough. That's one of the biggest reminders. We ran a mentorship program that was focused on getting women from mid manager to C suite and VP positions.

So our mentor application requirement was that you had to have at least three to five years of experience within one of those executive roles. And we actually had to reach out to and speak with individuals to say, will you please apply to be a mentor? Because we're trying to identify more mentors for this program.

We have so much interest from mid managers wanting to get into this role. We really just need more executives. We have these women who are C suite for 5, 10 years saying, I just don't know if I'm good enough. I just don't know if anyone could learn from me and having that imposter syndrome.

And it was just like. Do you know who you are? I looked up to you for years. How do you not know how amazing you are? So I think recognizing it and we always like to say, to name it, to create like a character in your head that when you hear that voice, you picture this character. So my imposter syndrome is a fuzzy little guy with goofy googly eyes, that drops glitter every time he walks.

And so I just hear that voice and I say, okay, I need to put you in the corner because you're not being useful to this conversation that I need to have right now. Being able to identify it in a silly way, but also remind yourself to recognize it and realize how silly it is, is a really powerful tool to overcome it and to continue to move forward so that you don't stop yourself and get in your own way and create your own glass ceiling from it.

Lizzie Mintus: Yeah. Your beliefs about yourself dictate so much. It is so interesting to hear the most successful people that you admire tell you they don't have it figured out, or they don't think they're that special.

It's really hard. Can you tell me some success stories from your mentorship program? Anything that really stands out?

I'm sure there's so many.

Joanie Kraut: Yeah, absolutely. We have a couple people who started off as mentees that then went on to become mentors and speakers. And I think that's one of my happiest moments of pride is just seeing somebody who, when they started off, they were nervous. They weren't posting their LinkedIn profile, didn't even have a profile picture, or their experience because they didn't know how to say it and they didn't think it was good enough to add. And now seeing them thriving, posting everywhere and all these accomplishments and all these speaking engagements and really sharing their story and giving that opportunity to be the representation for the next person is really my happiest kind of success story.

So we have a couple of women who started off as unemployed and we have a couple of women who started off as just underemployed. And are now just really thriving in C suite positions that are constantly posting and reaching out and saying, can I help? Can I speak? What can I do to support the next generation?

So they're definitely my happy ones. We also have a couple of studios where the women said, I need to get my next round of funding and I'm not sure how to do it. What do we do? And so we created a program that was focused on creating those introductions, making sure your pitch deck was ready to go.

What does your pitch sound like? And having that mentorship and guidance on that specific need that they had. I guess my best and my happiest success stories are when people reach out and say, Hey, this is where I'm stuck. I would really love support and being able to create a program around that.

Or when people reach out and they say, Hey, this is something I learned. This is my cheat code now. Can I share it and having the opportunity to have them share it with our community? Those are my two favorites.

Lizzie Mintus: I didn't know you did the funding help as well.

Joanie Kraut: Yeah, absolutely. We have a lot of amazing partners who will step in. We always say we don't need to be the experts, but we want to help you find the experts and make sure that you have access to them. And a lot of times, especially underserved and underrepresented people just don't have that same mentorship and that same opportunity to learn. So if we can create a space for that mentorship, that's a huge opportunity. So we're always happy to help whenever we can and make those connections and just get that set up.

Lizzie Mintus: I wanted to follow some really inspirational women speakers affiliated or not with WIGI. Are there any that you would recommend that people follow or if they even want to be an ally and figure out how they can support?

Joanie Kraut: Absolutely. So we have a get involved page that you can absolutely go to. We also have that newsletter that comes out every Wednesday. We really feature and highlight people every time we see something, we're just like, this is incredible. Everyone should know about this. We really include that in the newsletter.

We also have a really active discord channel. So that's my number one favorite thing is because people will say, Hey, I'm going to go to this thing. I'm speaking at this thing and they really promote it. And so then you have the opportunity to sign up. Nine times out of 10, we get free tickets through WIGI.

If it's a paid conference, we usually can say, here's a discount code or reach out to me if you need a free ticket. I usually get between 25 to 50 free tickets that I can hand out to people throughout the community.

We also have a lot of opportunities to join those offline sessions as well and have those sort of coffee break sessions where you can have conversations and be a little bit more vulnerable because it's not being recorded. Having those conversations where what would you do in this situation because this is where I'm at. No, it's not where I should be. Just creating that community and that opportunity to learn from each other and sometimes just to vent. That's been really powerful as well.

Lizzie Mintus: That is really powerful. So discord is huge. Are there any other communities that you would recommend that people can get involved in

Joanie Kraut: Yeah, so if it's technical, if you're a very technical person, the IGDA is one of my favorite groups. They have so many resources for more technical and the coding or the technical creative side as well.

We take on the business side. So the soft skills more than the hard skills, and then creating that space for how you promote yourself and be able to speak to that. I always do encourage people to join LinkedIn just because there's such a positive and active community on LinkedIn right now.

A lot of times people forget about LinkedIn because they're so focused on like the fun social media side and not as much the dry kind. But I think LinkedIn has been one of my favorite platforms to really work on, especially when focusing on careers. I would definitely encourage people to join LinkedIn as well.

Lizzie Mintus: I'm going to second that encouragement and even go a step further. Please upload a profile picture. Please write where you work. Write a few bullet points about what you do at that job. Maybe tell a little story about yourself in the summary so people can understand. And call out the elephant in the room, that's so important to. Maybe have a career break or their studio closed, maybe multiple times and explain that.

You talked about allies and I know you have a Dear Ally, section on the website where people can ask anonymous questions about DEI, what are some of the most common questions and what are the answers to them?

Joanie Kraut: We have an actionable ally committee on our board of directors and it's headed by Alexander Hernandez. And he was like, what if we had an advice column? What if we have a Dear Abby? And we came up with Dear Ally and we were so excited. It's a really great opportunity for people to ask those questions anonymously.

You don't have to add your name. There's a Google form. They don't ask you for your email. Sometimes people like to add like a fake name like a sleepless in Seattle a name, which is very cute. But it's not asking for any personal identifiers at all. We just want the questions. We want to be able to help. We want to be able to empower people.

So the number one question we get is, I keep seeing something that I don't like and I want to say something, but I don't want to seem performative. I don't know who to say it to. Should I first ask the person if they want me to say something? Should I go straight to HR? What are the steps? What should I be doing when I see something? They always say, see something, say something. Who do I say it to, and what do I say?

We always encourage people to first speak to the individual privately to see if, where are you and what's going on? If it's something blatantly obvious like unwanted touching or if it's have a physical concern or if it's bullying, then you don't really even need to talk to them. You can go straight to HR. That's a great opportunity.

But maybe it's more teasing, and you're not sure if they're really friends and it's okay, or if it's just you're uncomfortable with the situation, always having those conversations is important, but making sure it's a separate conversation. You're not calling them out where they have to then answer in front of everybody how they feel.

We also really encourage people to read your employee handbook. It's a really great step by step instruction on what you're supposed to do and what the right kind of trajectory is. If it's an issue with your manager, you usually are supposed to go to HR immediately because your manager is obviously not going to yell at themselves.

Having the opportunity to know those right steps from a work standpoint versus if you're at a conference and you see something happening, who do you say something to? Nine times out of ten, those volunteers showing you where to go don't actually have any authority or training on how to handle those situations.

So who is it that you go to? What are those steps? What does that mean? What does that look like? Having those conversations and being able to answer, if it's me that's having the issue and I want to know how to deal with it on my own, or if it's somebody else seeing it and wanting to be an ally, what does that mean?

Then also, am I going to put myself in the line of fire if I stand up for somebody? Yeah, probably, you probably are. But which side of history do you want to be on- the side that stays safe or the side that was doing the right thing. And so really just encouraging people to have those conversations to make sure that the right workplace culture is happening and then also to say something that they feel effectively will change the situation.

Lizzie Mintus: Yeah, it's very scary. I like that you make it anonymous. Same with social media posts, people would rather say nothing because they're scared that they might get criticized for saying anything.

In terms of companies and advice for promoting a safe and inclusive environment where people feel comfortable to bring these kind of things up. What advice do you have?

Joanie Kraut: We always say culture starts at the top. It's not just defining it. It's walking the walk. Making sure that, when I look at a job, I will immediately look at the company first. Does anybody look like me in the C suite or VP level? And if nobody looks like me, I'm not going to feel like I'm going to have a voice.

And I know I'm not going to feel like I'm going to be really taken seriously. So a lot of times we're checking that box of, oh, we hired. 30 percent of our people are within this specific category, which is what we were told to do. That's great, but are they all entry level? Do they actually have a voice?

And what is the turnover rate for those people? If you have a really high turnover rate for underserved and underrepresented people, chances are they don't feel included. They don't feel like they belong. So just because you're hiring somebody doesn't mean you've actually created a diverse environment.

Having those people have a seat at the table, helping to define the game mechanics, helping to define the world and make sure that the representation is actually meaningful and inclusive of what their actual backgrounds is one of the most important things.

In regards to what advice can we offer? Creating an internal mentorship programs. If you're trying to help people move up, have the C-suite reaching down to the mid managers or reaching even all the way down to somebody who's entry level. Just having that access and opportunity to have the open door conversations.

What does this job look like in 5 years? You should be able to answer that. I should know if I have a trajectory or not. I should know if I have the opportunity to move forward or not and what I need to do to make that happen. If there's not that upward mobility, if you're constantly hiring new people, every time you have an executive position open, chances are you're not creating that environment that you're hoping to in that culture that you're trying to cultivate.

 Having those conversations, having employees actually at the table, having the conversations and listening to what they're saying is really powerful. Not like the pizza party, but the actual board meeting and having those different voices, speaking to what are the problems? What are the issues?

A lot of times we get called in to do workforce retraining. If you just listen to the employees, if you just listen to the feedback that they have, sometimes it's a lack of opportunity to convey what the solution is, but if you can identify at least the problem to start the conversation, then you can work together to create the solution.

A lot of times management has this idea that they're supposed to have all the answers. 9 times out of 10, it's not that somebody is looking for the answer; they're looking to have the conversation. They're looking to help define the answer. The person who is complaining or who has the issue might also have a solution in mind.

So creating the opportunity for people to present, not just problems, but solutions is another really powerful tool that you can really include. Everything down to just having those regular cookouts or those regular opportunities for people to bond and come together.

Not necessarily an all staff meeting where you're supposed to sit quietly, but as space to sort of network and connect with each other, whether that's a monthly all team lunch or a space where people can see each other and see that there is that opportunity and that access to really continue those conversations and have that open dialogue is really powerful.

Lizzie Mintus: Yeah, I think that's great advice for any company. From a hiring perspective, it is sometimes challenging to find women at an executive level. I know you have a job board too through WIGI right?

Joanie Kraut: Yeah. We have a job board. We also have on our Discord. We'll post additional jobs that are maybe not yet live to post on a job board.

Being part of that discord is also really helpful. Then nine times out of 10, if it's somebody posting, here's a job that's not yet live. DM me if you apply so I can help you. And so there's that mentorship and opportunity to also access as well.

Lizzie Mintus: That's so important. Jobs have so many applicants these days with the state of the industry, that's a great way for people to get their foot in the door and get ahead.

The game industry is wonky is the best word right now, but there's so many ups and downs and changes. There's AI engines and pricing are changing. There's just a lot of moving parts and a lot of new studios coming.

What trends and development and games in general do you feel are coming up in the future and how do you feel like they'll impact games as a whole?

Where's the industry going?

Joanie Kraut: I see a lot more emphasis being put right now into accessibility. And so there's a lot of gaming mechanics that are trying to create more opportunities for people who being able to use VR when you only have one eye. Or being able to use a controller when you maybe don't have all of your digits on your hand.

If you have ADD, maybe having a mechanic in the game that kind of helps you focus or track your quests. There's a lot of things that are happening right now that is a huge focus on creating that inclusivity. And creating that conversation again that gaming really is for everyone.

So it's been a really positive opportunity for people to explore new avenues and explore new ways to get into gaming. We're working with a really cool group right now that is focused on drone racing. And they're doing a simulator so that you can practice and get really good at drone racing because drones are expensive.

You can't just start off trying and hoping for the best with $1,000,000 drone. So having the access and opportunity to test it out, to try it out, to see how you would do with a simulator, having all of the same key resistance pieces and things like that is creating this access and opportunity for people who maybe are in underserved communities or who just can't afford to throw away that much money on a drone that they're about to crash because they're still learning how to use it.

And then once you pass a certain level of the test run, they're actually awarding people the opportunity to compete with a real drone and they're providing the drone. It's creating those new access points that people haven't really thought of in the past. There's a lot of really great nonprofits out there that are focused on, how can we bring more gaming to kids in hospitals, especially hospitals where the kids don't have the same mechanics or opportunities. What can we do to make sure that they can still play games and focus on something that's fun.

And then just really rebalancing. When you have different people in a game, who are you consulting with, making sure that you have the right voices at the table.

I worked with a company when I first started at WIGI. They were creating a game for young girls and and their perspective was that the game had failed. It was terrible, but they believed there was no market for it. They thought there was no specific demographic interested in gaming among these 12 to 13-year-old girls.

We asked, who did you work with when you created this game? We just had all of our guys at our studio read a bunch of young adult books.

Cute. And then you created a game based on those books? That's probably why it failed. Making sure the right voices are at the table when you're creating these storylines, and we're seeing a lot more of that.

That's not the trajectory that I'm seeing right now and I'm really hoping to just continue to change that narrative of, one person should be creating all the games and instead making sure everybody's coming together to create the games that are the most meaningful and the most accessible to everyone.

Lizzie Mintus: Yeah, good ideas come from everywhere. I had Bernie Yee on the show and he talked about making this VR experience for Oculus in the early days was a dancing experience, but they were testing it with everybody who worked at Oculus at the time. And they were all white software engineers and they're like, I hate dancing and dancing makes me uncomfortable.

Nobody would want to play this and that was all the feedback, but then they did research and it came out and it was a huge hit because white software engineers were not their target market. So the dancers are just like, yeah, super awkward.

It's funny. It's okay to have guns in the game, but dancing is making you uncomfortable? Let's evaluate the situation.

What advice would you have for entrepreneurs who are starting a company and want to make sure they start thinking about inclusivity from the start?

Joanie Kraut: I immediately, I love entrepreneurs. I love it when people start studios. There are so many people you can learn from. I would say the number one thing is to start really just networking and having conversations. Find a mentorship program for people starting up there with startups in mind. Find someone who has a company that you really admire and talk to them.

There's so much nervousness around introducing yourself, but this person's so high up. Introduce yourself, start the conversation because nine times out of 10, they want to see this in the world too.

They want you to do the thing too. And if they've already figured out the cheat code on how to do it, they we'll be happy to share that with you.

I also say, a lot of times. It's about the hiring practices. So if you have all white males that are your hiring team and all white males that are reviewing the applications, there may be a bias that can happen.

Making sure that you have diverse hiring teams, making sure you have diverse people reading the applications, really consider what is your criteria?

Do I have to have 10 years of experience to for a job that pays 30 a year? What is it that you are evaluating? Do you really need a bachelor's degree to be a community manager? And you need to decide that for your company. But you might be removing a lot of applicants. That would be absolutely amazing in a role if you give a technical or a certification requirement that isn't really necessary.

So just making sure you know what you are saying is important to you because that is going to define your company culture and that is going to define how people view these roles and these opportunities.

And then really having that space where people can have feedback and respond. If every time you have a job posting you, you have to be a rock star, you have to be a badass. I might not apply to that because I don't, one, I have to be a rock star, I want to do a good job and then go home.

You might be discouraging people from applying for those positions. Then title is also very important. If you're from a more conservative background, I can't go home and tell my mom that my title is Epic Mega Lead Man. You have to make sure that you have those more real and professional titles when you're trying to get in front of different people.

So making sure that you know who you're targeting when you are writing the job description. Making it not complicated. Why do I need to upload my resume and then fill out everything that's on my resume? And then also write a survey and respond to a five paragraph essay to apply to an entry level position.

What does the application process look like? I recently had eight different interviews for one job. Why was that necessary? Is there an opportunity to decrease that when it comes to the timing?

The other thing too is the technical requirements when you have to do a project to apply for a job. Making sure that people are getting credit for that time is really important to me as well.

There's definitely a lot of opportunities for people to get more diverse candidates. I hate it when people say there's not enough women applying for this job. There's a reason. It's not that there's not enough women. It's that there's not enough women applying to your job because of something that you need to evaluate and fix.

So having those conversations, really reaching out to people who are willing to help. We can always help with the wording, everything from what is it that you're asking people to apply to what is it that you're expecting on their resume. Does it need to be a more PDF or a link, and defining that for people creating that transparency is also really powerful.

Lizzie Mintus: I see that people really struggle with writing job descriptions because they're busy and they just pull one from Riot or like Activision that's up there and then just repurpose it to themselves. So I feel like that could be a huge WIGI learning experience. How do you write a job description that is inclusive and what do you need? Because people struggle with it or they don't even have a correct one and then they want you to start hiring for them.

Joanie Kraut: I bet you're getting a lot of that right now. You're like, you want me to hire a what? You want me to hire a unicorn? Can you be more specific?

Lizzie Mintus: Yes. What is it that you want? What is it that you value if this person is 80%? Is that okay? And return to office as a whole debacle? It's an interesting time, but there are so many applicants. Like I said before, jobs do have 500, a thousand applicants. And from a company perspective, how do you effectively go through those?

So I think a better system in general would be helpful, but like you said, you can go into Discord, you can join a community and get referrals. And I think that's the secret I find to getting a job, having somebody introduce you or help you.

Joanie Kraut: Absolutely. And having that mentor to say, you applied where? Here's what you should know before you take that interview, is actually something that's really helped me in my career as well.

And just watching for red flags, making sure you get certain things in your contract. So it's not just a handshake deal, which a lot of times , people can trust too much. There's not enough reason to have that trust. So making sure you're really listening to people who already work there or who have worked there and getting their feedback as well.

I think the number one thing for me is, I don't take advice from someone I wouldn't want to trade places with. So what is your title versus where do I want to be? What is your experience versus what do I want my experience to be? And so a lot of times people forget that.

But opinions are like belly buttons. Almost everybody has one. It's not really necessarily good advice when you get advice, and it's not necessarily something that you need to listen to. Maybe you just need to pick through it and find the pieces that will empower you to move forward to the next stage.

It doesn't mean you have to listen to everybody's advice fully or take advice that's going to hold you back. Yeah, but

Lizzie Mintus: I like data and I'm a fact finder. I like to discover, but I think it's important to do some research and I was just thinking the other day, companies always ask you to send references, but I feel like it's also important to reference check the company before you join. It's a multi, it's going both ways.

I think people, especially right now, feel that Oh, I have this opportunity to take a job. It depends on your pressing need for the job, but I think doing due diligence is super important.

Joanie Kraut: For sure. And knowing who your manager is and their management style is another huge thing that people often forget.

You're so focused on wanting the specific AAA title on your resume that you forget this is 40 hours a week, at least of your life. There's a need to know what you're stepping into before you accept.

Lizzie Mintus: And liking it versus just wanting the company or the money. There's a bunch of considerations.

 I love that WIGI was built around, I wish I knew x at y stage of my career. What are some of the top cheat codes that you have gotten that you could share?

Joanie Kraut: So for me personally, get it in writing. I had a job interview where they told me the salary range and I came in at the bottom of the salary range and I said, I'm going to prove to you that I'm worth the top of the salary range.

So for the first six months, I'm going to take the bottom of the salary range, but then in six months, I want to reevaluate and I want you to see that I am worth the top of the salary range. And the hiring manager said, that sounds amazing. And so we signed paperwork and we moved forward.

And at six months, my manager said, Oh, we don't do that. We don't do re evaluations until you've been here at least a year. I said, no, we talked about this in my interview. I have all these notes. This is what you said. This is what I said. And she said, no, I'm sorry. We don't do that. That's a company policy. That's not something I can step around. And so I then had the bottom of the salary range.

After a year, when it came up to get my salary increase, I wasn't even at the middle of the salary range that was proposed to me when I was hired.

I was also helping to process payroll. So I saw how much more everybody else was making. She remembered that I was the one who pitched the number, but she didn't remember the rest of the conversation.

It wasn't in writing, so I had no leg to stand on. So get it in writing, even if it seems like the most honest, trustworthy person, it doesn't count unless it's in writing. So that is my number one cheat code.

The other thing is really bringing solutions to the table. So having a solution standpoint is something I was really taught, both at Motorola and SteelSeries.

So it was this concept that when you start a conversation about how there is a problem or there is an issue, make sure you also have a solution or a goal for what the conversation is. Don't just start a conversation about, hey, there's a problem. Know what it is that you want out of that conversation. So are you trying to resolve the problem? And then do you have a solution in mind on what that looks like?

Making sure you're not just constantly pointing out the problems, but pointing out how to move beyond the problems, how to fix the problems. If you can't think of how to get to the solution, but you know what the goal is, at least being able to define that and start that conversation is really powerful.

So making sure when you have a problem, you have a goal in mind before you present the problem.

And then third, I think is honestly just remembering who you're taking advice from. Really evaluate before you just blindly take someone's advice because someone telling you that you should go stand on the table and just scream at everybody, do they have a great trajectory for their career? Maybe that's not the best career advice.

So making sure you're really speaking with trustworthy people who have your best interests at heart. But also building that team.

We talk a lot about how you should always have a mentor, a coach, a sponsor, and a friend. And those four pillars is going to really be what helps you get through the struggles that you have in your life and your career. Making sure you each one of those is, because your manager is probably not also your best friend, and that's okay.

But make sure that you have those separation of conversations, and you're speaking to your authority figure with respect, but then when you need to vent, go to your best friend. Having that separation is also really powerful.

Lizzie Mintus: Can you just clarify the difference between a sponsor and a mentor?

Joanie Kraut: Absolutely. So a sponsor, a mentor, and a coach are the three pillars to what we see as being really useful in your career and supporting you. So a sponsor will tell other people how well you do it. A mentor will tell you how they did it, and a coach will tell you how to do it better. So those three roles are three different roles, sometimes they overlap.

A mentor will tell you how they did it, but they can also teach you how to do it better, which is a coach. And then a sponsor is really the person who goes out and says, Oh my gosh, Lizzie, you have to get this person's resume and help them find a job because this is the person who can do this thing the best.

And having that sponsor speaking to a hiring manager or speaking to a manager who's looking to fill a role is like you were saying, sometimes it's making that introduction. That's the person making the introduction is that sponsor.

Lizzie Mintus: And how would you go about finding? What's your advice to find these people?

Joanie Kraut: I often find that having a mentor, the mentor will often turn into a coach and then the coach will often turn into a sponsor. So it becomes an evolution from that standpoint.

I do have at times where I do a speaking engagement or I work on a project or I volunteer on board and then somebody becomes my sponsor because they see the work and they see the ethic and they see what it is I'm standing for and how well I can do it.

And so having that personal brand out there. Hey, this person keeps posting about how important accessibility is to them and gaming. Somebody should talk to this person because clearly, this is their personal brand. This is their life goal. This is something that's really important to them.

So having those posts, creating that space around you is really a powerful way to identify mentors, coaches, and sponsors.

Lizzie Mintus: Yeah, definitely attracts people to you.

Joanie Kraut: And then join like WIGI's mentorship program. We have a really great group of people who are constantly supporting it. And we're having these different conversations. Each mentorship program has a different track.

We did an esports track and exploring different pathways into esports that are beyond just a pro player. We have opportunities to speak to people in our discord who have started their own company, who have failed at starting their own company, who have succeeded at starting their own company.

We have those learnings and those cheat codes. We have people constantly posting, can somebody review my portfolio? Can somebody take a look at my resume? And it's a space where you can have a mentor. Who's maybe even like a same level mentor, but it's somebody that you can still learn from and work with.

Finding those communities is a really powerful way to identify sponsors as well. And then posting on socials. If you post something and you say, what is your opinion? Somebody has an amazing opinion that really resonates with you. Reach out to that person and say, wow, I really liked what you just said on this post.

Can we talk more? Can we have a coffee? It doesn't have to be an official defined mentorship where you meet every Tuesday at 3 p. m.

It can just be a conversation that you have with an individual that you respect and you want to hear what they have to say.

Lizzie Mintus: I love that intro to it. Can we just have a coffee or casual thing?

Because I see that a lot of people then launch into, Hey, I need all these different things. And then the person often is like, Whoa. Just a quick call is always easy to opt into.

Thank you. This was so good. I have one last question before I ask it. I want to point people to your website, getwigi. com.

The last question is who has your biggest mentor been in your career and what was their best advice?

Joanie Kraut: Oh my gosh. I would say my board of directors has been just. incredible and they each have their own sort of specific niche.

Some of my favorite advice, Christina Seeley, who is the CEO at Maximum Games and Modus Games. She's always the one that, when something happens, she's congratulations, you're in the fire because you're really making a difference.

And it's rewording that, oh my gosh, this thing is happening to, oh, this thing is happening because I'm really creating a wave. I'm making it a positive spin. She's also very much empowerment. She's show me the data and we can have a conversation, but it's how you can show me the data. There's no reason to have a conversation. I love that mentality, which is not everybody's cup of tea, but is my cup of tea and I love it.

Jen O'Neill has been one of... I've idolized Jen O'Neill before I even started in the games industry. I love what she does with diversity, equity, and inclusion.

I love the conversations she has in the space she creates. And she's very nurturing. So she's: let's talk, let's have a conversation. How are you really doing? Because you're smiling, but I don't believe you. And so having the opportunity to have somebody who can see you even when you're putting on a mask is a really powerful mentor and friend to have to keep regular conversations going with.

And then Kareem Yap and Jamila Vilam, my executive board committee right there. They're just both really good at: what's happening and how can we support you? And having those conversations around: these are the things that I'm working on, but I can't figure out I'm stuck. I can't figure out how to get to the next step and having them as the next outside brain to help me think through. Okay, but what have we done and what can we do? It's really it's just been such a powerful team to just have all of these people with different mindsets and people with different skill sets coming together to make sure that we're building this community and we're creating these impactful programs.

We're just continuing to move forward. But they always have my interest at heart, which is a really great thing to have. So really creating those pillars and creating those spaces where you can be vulnerable and still know that it's not going to be a bad thing. It's going to be something that you can learn from.

Lizzie Mintus: I'm happy you have all those people to support you.

Joanie Kraut: Thank you.

Lizzie Mintus: We've been talking to Joanie Kraut, who is the CEO of Women in Games International. Joanie, where can people go to get more involved with WIGI or contact you?

Joanie Kraut: Absolutely. is our website. Sign up for our newsletter. We constantly have new content coming out every Wednesday.

And then we actually do have a get involved page where you can sign up to be a volunteer. You can sign up to help us fundraise or you can sign up to actually be a sponsor for our program. We have definitely different ways to get involved.

And then sign up to join a program. Go ahead and sign up for our discord and get involved there as well. And just start actively posting and see how it can grow your career.

Lizzie Mintus: Thank you so much.

Joanie Kraut: Thank you.

Thanks so much for listening to the show this week. To catch all the latest from Here's Waldo. You can follow us on LinkedIn. Be sure to click subscribe to get future episodes. We'll see you next time.

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