February 27, 2020

Alpha Girls Panel Recap

Yesterday Zynga was honored to host a panel about gender equality, gaming and the workplace, inspired by the book Alpha Girls: The Women Upstarts Who Took on Silicon Valley’s Male Culture and Made the Deals of a Lifetime. Hosted by the company’s employee resource group, Women At Zynga (WAZ), Alpha Girls author Julian Guthrie was joined on stage by Sonja Perkins, Venture Capitalist & Founder of Project Glimmer and Broadway Angels and a subject of Guthrie’s book, and Mark Pincus, Zynga’s founder and chairman.

Moderated by Zynga’s Chief Legal Officer Phuong Phillips, the group delved into the heart of diversity and inclusion of gaming and their key advice for creating change within the community.

“The gaming world has had a huge impact on my son’s life,” Guthrie says. Guthrie is parenting a teenage son and has seen her child’s world influenced by the prevalence of gaming. “I overhear him talking with his friends as he plays and, because I talk to him about [gender equality] all the time, I hear him not only playing with other girls but also encouraging them along the way. That’s what we need more of, not only including everyone to play but encouraging them as well.”

There has been a long-time assumption that gaming is a male dominated industry focused on action-based shooter games. But upon starting Zynga, Pincus found that women are just as engaged and competition driven, they just weren’t being marketed to.

“I grew up with four Alpha Girl sisters and they are definitely competitive,” said Pincus. “They didn’t want to play a shoot-em-up games, but they definitely wanted to beat you and win.” That’s what the industry didn’t understand, Pincus explains, women are searching for a different type of competitive play that involves more social elements and community building. From that insight, Pincus went on to develop Farmville and acquire Words With Friends, two groundbreaking mobile games whose player base has a majority of female players.

“We need to change that assumption,” says Guthrie.

With careers in gaming and venture capitalism, Guthrie, Pincus and Perkins remarked that one of the biggest steps to success is not taking “no” as an answer, but rather as a push for finding an alternative route. Whether hitting barriers in product development or career advancements and changes, persistence and confidence can propel you further than all else.

Following the discussion, the panelists joined over 100 guests for a cocktail reception, and guests received signed copies of Alpha Girls.