Square Enix staff talk Women’s History Month, representation and more

For Women’s History Month, three extraordinarily talented women at Square Enix and its studios share their personal thoughts on the event, the industry and more.
By Square Enix

Women’s History Month is a reminder to celebrate the contributions that women have made to our culture and society - and that of course includes games.

Square Enix - and our fans - owe a lot to the extraordinarily talented women who help bring our games to life across all areas of the business - development, marketing, PR and many more.

In honor of the month, and what it represents, women at Square Enix and our studios have shared their experiences, insight and advice on working in what is still a largely male-dominated industry, and what can be done to affect even greater change.

Dawn Taylor - Lighting Artist, Luminous Productions

Dawn Taylor

Hi Dawn - can you tell us a little about yourself and your role at Luminous Productions?

I’m a Lighting Artist. Lighting is incredibly fun in games! It’s like being a stage lighter for a play, but your set is a game level or cutscene. You have to think a lot about how you want the player to feel, where they should focus their attention, and where they need to go.

On Forspoken, I also spent a lot of time creating the sky boxes. There are so many interesting realms in the world of Athia, with loads of personality, so making skies to match is a very exciting task!

How did your career in gaming get started?

I started my career in the film industry, as a Lighting Technical Director at Pixar, but I wanted to work in games since I saw the Waltz for the Moon Dance in FINAL FANTASY VIII.

Many companies didn’t want to hire me, despite my film lighting experience, because I lacked game development experience. I stayed determined and my husband, who is a game developer, suggested with make Independent games together.

I made my first game in 2010 at the Global Game Jam, and shortly after, we created our own Indie studio and started making many mobile games together. We even appeared on a game-making reality TV show with IGN.

I learned a lot about the Unity engine during that time and built a strong game art portfolio. Finally, I was able to get a job offer with Harmonix Music Systems as a Lighting Artist - I will always be thankful to them for opening the door to my professional game development career.

What do you find meaningful about Women’s History Month?

The most meaningful part of Women’s History Month is learning about incredible women who were at the forefront of everything, from games, to science and medicine, to pivotal parts of world history and more!

I also love seeing spotlights on amazing game programs geared towards women and girls - for example, Girls Make Games or the Pixelles Game Incubator in Montreal.

I hope that one day that I can organize a game dev program for girls in Japan. Seeing the students who come out of those programs I admire reminds me to stay inspired and dream big for the future.

What advice would you give to other women looking to thrive in the gaming industry?

Don’t let anyone try to steal your thunder or discourage you from breaking into the industry.

More than ever, the power is in your hands to carve out your own destiny. You can learn about game development and make your own games with engines like UE5 and Unity, and there are so many tutorials to get you started.

If you’re interested in marketing or community management, some of the most friendly and welcoming people I’ve met in those roles are women and it’s fairly easy to connect with them on social media - so begin to build a relationship with women you admire.

Don’t be afraid to reach out the women in roles you’re interested in! Often times we’re very eager to help other women achieve success in game development - or at least point you in the right direction!)

What do you feel can make the difference to address gender stereotypes?

First, encouraging more women from different backgrounds and experiences to enter the industry. The more women working in the industry and at a company, telling authentic stories, and checking their experiences against stereotypes, the less gender stereotypes we’ll see in games.

I know game development is having an amazing ‘Dad character’ moment, and I want to see more moms in the industry like myself offering their insights about how to make authentic Mothers in games. I hope we can see Moms as lead characters someday too!

Second, don’t be afraid to speak up! I feel so lucky to be at a company like Luminous Productions, where I can speak up about any concerns I have with our female characters and feel heard and appreciated.

It can be so scary to say something when your gut is saying “hmmm… that’s not right”. But ultimately, everyone wants to make a wonderful game and ensuring that gender stereotypes are addressed only makes the game better and more authentic.

Which inspiring woman do you admire?

I think the list would take up several pages if I mentioned them all!

I feel like the majority of women I’ve worked with or met in the game industry have left a lasting impression on me, and inspired me to want more out of my career and be a better developer and advocate.

My driving force for improving my Japanese is so I can talk to more of the incredible women who work at Square Enix Japan and have shaped the Japanese Game Industry. I don’t think gamers and developers realize all of the amazing women who have shaped the game industry in Japan!

In general, I really admire the actress Geena Davis and everything her foundation does to address gender in media and gender equity in entertainment. Seriously, go check out the Geena Davis Foundation and read their papers on representation of gender stereotypes in entertainment (including games!)

It’s eye opening and serves as great a great roadmap for making games, film, TV, etc a more equal place.

How can Women’s History Month inspire and help women?

I think Women’s History Month is a concentrated opportunity to help women learn about potential mentors and resources that are at their disposal to grow.

I do wish this effort wasn’t limited to just one month though! There are too many amazing women who have shaped the history of the world and who are leading the current generation into a future of equality to fit into one month.

What are you most proud of from your time at Square Enix so far?

I’ve been at Luminous Productions for more than two years and have spent all of that time on Forspoken - and I have to say this game will be the highlight of my career.

From my very first interview, when I saw the incredible cast of Tantas and our main hero Frey, I felt it in my bones that I needed to be a part of this project. One of the pillars of this game is telling an authentic story of a modern woman, and I felt so incredibly lucky to contribute to that authenticity in any way I could.

I absolutely cannot wait for the world to experience our game. Everyone has worked so hard on bringing the matriarchal society of Athia to life and I hope everyone loves the amazing cast of powerful women as much as I do!

Kathryn - Events Manager, Square Enix America


Hi Kathryn - can you tell us a little about yourself and your role here at Square Enix?

As Event Manager, my team and I work with all the different departments to help produce and create various events both physically and digitally.

My family is from Puerto Rico, and I was born and raised in California. Aside from video games, I’m also very passionate about live theater and the performing arts. I grew up singing and dancing and really love being creative!

How did your career in gaming get started?

I grew up playing video games and absolutely loved the FINAL FANTASY franchise in particular.

Prior to working in the video game industry, I was a stage manager for various live stage productions as well as special events. I always aspired to turn my passions of gaming into a career and it truly is a dream come true to be where I am today!

What do you find meaningful about Women’s History Month?

Something that has always inspired me when I think of the amazing women in our history is how they truly were comfortable with being _UN_comfortable. They were pioneers who didn’t back down in spite of the struggles they faced.

I really love the expression “Nevertheless, she persisted” and so it’s important to me to always speak up for women’s rights and equality - not just during this month, but all year long.

What advice would you give to other women looking to thrive in the gaming industry?

My best advice always is to just be yourself! If video games are something that you’re passionate about in your personal life, don’t be afraid to include that into your cover letter - the gaming industry is filled with likeminded individuals who are equally as enthusiastic and dedicated!

What do you feel can make the difference to address gender stereotypes?

It’s always important to listen to stories from people from all different walks of life and to never stop educating ourselves.

Which inspiring woman do you admire?

I absolutely LOVE Former First Lady Michelle Obama!

How can Women’s History Month inspire and help women?

Something I love about Women’s History Month is hearing from other people and learning about their journeys. There are so many amazing women out there doing incredible things and it’s always exciting to learn something new!

What are you most proud of from your time at Square Enix so far?

One of my most proud moments was the lead up to the launch of FINAL FANTASY XIV Online’s newest expansion Endwalker.

Our media event was held digitally, which is a bit different than in years past, however seeing how the teams came together to really pull off an exciting event was incredibly inspiring!

Alexandra Luse - Associate Manager, Mobile, Square Enix America

Alexandra Luse

Hi Alexandra - can you tell us a little about yourself and your role?

I’m an Associate Marketing Manager on the Mobile Games Team at Square Enix America. We support various marketing initiatives for some of the mobile games in Square Enix’s portfolio.

How did your career in gaming get started?

I loved playing video games in grade school, specifically Square Enix games like KINGDOM HEARTS and FINAL FANTASY. In college, I watched the Video Game Awards for the first time and realize there were career opportunities in gaming.

After pursuing a Marketing degree and working as temp staff at the Square Enix Booth at events in my spare time, I made connections, applied for a position on the Square Enix Mobile Games team, and haven’t looked back!

What advice would you give to other women looking to thrive in the gaming industry?

Don’t settle and don’t be afraid to speak up.

It’s very easy to be drowned out in a ‘crowded room’, so don’t be afraid to speak up loudly to make sure you're heard! I think there is a negative stigma around woman who speak up and stand behind their thoughts and opinions, and with each woman who ignores that stigma, I think we get closer and closer to breaking it.

This is probably obvious, but I think it’s also important to start your day with the mindset that every day is an opportunity to learn, improve, and grow.

What do you feel can make the difference to address gender stereotypes?

Giving more women, and non-binary people, the opportunity to be promoted into higher roles.

Supporting a system that makes people feel comfortable to report situations where they are being treated differently due to gender stereotypes.

Recognizing women for their achievements in their role - not just because they are women - all the time - and not just during Women’s History Month.

Which inspiring woman do you admire?

Every single woman that I work with - of which there are many, and I’m proud to be able to say that.

How can Women’s History Month inspire and help women?

I think just the fact that Women’s History Month exists continues to show women that our achievements are worthy of recognition.

What are you most proud of from your time at Square Enix so far?

I’m proud of being a part of a company that not only has such a prominent place in gaming history, but also to work for the company that shaped my interests, and arguably my future, in gaming.

I’m also extremely proud that my team started out as an all-women team. We’ve accomplished some incredible things, and even as our team grows, I’m proud of what we’ve achieved and how hard we work each day.

Thanks to everyone who shared their thoughts on Women’s History Month, Square Enix and working in and around video games.

Every woman at the company plays an invaluable role in making sure you get to enjoy incredible games and do their part to make the industry a great one to work in. But there’s still a way to go.

Greater diversity and inclusion can only benefit both Square Enix and gaming at large, so if you’re interested in working with us, check our careers site for current opportunities - we’d love to hear from you!