Women’s History Month Spotlight — Gabrielle Heyman
For Women’s History Month in March, Zynga is celebrating female employees who are helping forge a more gender-equal world. In keeping with the theme for International Women’s Day, “Will You Help #BreakTheBias,” the women — from diverse positions around the world — are sharing ways in which they’re combating bias, stereotypes and discrimination in gaming.
Today, we talked with Gabrielle Heyman, Head of Global Brand Partnerships, based in Culver City, California. Gabrielle is a huge advocate for representation and the working moms on her team. Read on below to learn more.
How can we change the narrative around gaming/tech being perceived as a male-dominated industry?
Representation is important. Women play, make and market games. The more of us that participate in forums like GamesBeat, or on platforms like LinkedIn, the more women will see there is a place for them in gaming. There are so many stereotypes in gaming, and it is fascinating to see how they persist even though the facts show otherwise.
Why is it important to have women working on games in addition to appearing in them (i.e., avatars)?
I’ll say it again, representation! The more women that make, appear in and play games, the more women will participate across the board. It’s a cycle that builds — when women see themselves in the games and on the teams that make the games, more women will want to join. This is how representation can grow.
What positive changes have you seen at Zynga, or within your career, that help promote equity?
Women at Zynga (WAZ) is an employee resource group (ERG) at Zynga dedicated to all aspects of women in gaming, internally and externally. When the pandemic struck and children were sent home from school, working women had a bigger burden at home. WAZ was a forum where we could support each other through that time.
How do you see your role at Zynga helping to “break the bias” within our industry?
As a leader, I can influence internally and externally. I have a hand in hiring, leveling up talent and making sure women have a seat at the table. In addition, I do a lot of public speaking on behalf of Zynga and the games industry at large, so this creates forums where I can lead by example.
What actions are you taking? For example, can you tell us how you’re mentoring colleagues to promote inclusion?
I’m a big advocate for the working mother. I’m a single mom of two sons, and there are a lot of moms on my team. It’s important to be able to have a thriving career and be active in the day-to-day lives of your kids, even without the support of a partner at home.
I know so many working mothers who are dedicated to their careers, but they struggle juggling commitments for their kids. I think the pandemic has shown us you can work from home, travel less for work and be there for your family all the while. I’m the mom who turns on my laptop to work when I take the kids to the orthodontist. I used to have regular one-on-ones with my boss during my kid’s swimming lessons — and I do the same for my team. This way of working doesn’t impede success — I excel at my career and my team is a success.
There are 24 hours in a day — minus sleep, let’s say 16 hours. There is plenty of time to work hard, excel in your career and be there for your family. It is important to support working mothers. This helps more women have a seat at the table.
What is something someone else has done that you really saw make an impact, either at Zynga or another point in your career?
I think men are extremely important advocates for women. They are important allies that can help break the bias. Like I said, my male boss was OK with doing our one-on-ones while my kid was at a swim lesson. He has helped break the bias by demonstrating that women can be successful in juggling a family and career — I was growing our business and exceeding goals while having the flexibility of being there for my kids when they needed me.
What are your favorite games?
Currently Redecor and Words With Friends. I go through phases and play lots of different games on and off.
What are your favorite books?
I love too many to have a favorite. I read a lot of fiction. I love noir fiction. I recently finished “Palm Springs Noir,” which is a series of short stories. I also recently read “Swans of Fifth Ave.,” which was all about Truman Capote and Babe Paley and the socialites and scandals of that era.