Mariina Hallikainen: 'Stop calling me a female CEO'

Mariina Hallikainen: 'Stop calling me a female CEO'
James Batchelor

By James Batchelor

July 31st 2015 at 12:00PM

The head of Cities: Skylines studio Colossal Order says the industry still has a way to go before ‘true gender equality’

Mariina Hallikainen urges the industry to pay less attention to gender and more to ability if we are ever to present equal opportunities to all aspiring games-makers.

The CEO of Colossal Order, the studio behind the smash hit Cities: Skylines, says she objects to the focus on her success as a woman in the games industry, insisting that it is her business prowess that has put her where she is today. 

“We’ll have true equality when people stop calling me a female CEO, and when we start looking into what people are good at and what they’re comfortable doing,” she told Develop. “I don’t think making good games has anything to do with gender.

“I’ve been asked to talk at a lot of conferences, asked to explain my position as a woman in the games industry. I’m a CEO – that position has nothing to do with my gender. It’s very frustrating to me. 

“I feel that we should be able to look beyond that, and at what people are good at. But to get there, I do feel that it’s extremely important for young girls – and boys as well – to see that there is a very diverse group of people making games.”

Hallikainen referenced the studio’s lead designer Karoliina Korppoo as another example.

“She is very goth and has a very specific look – but that has nothing to do with her work in developing games,” she said. “Your sexual orientation doesn’t really matter, either. These are the kind of things that people put so much effort into wondering about, but it has nothing to do with the work itself.

“When we can start looking at people’s skillset rather than their appearance – that’s where this industry is supposed to be heading.”

When we have female role models, girls can actually see that there are women in the games industry.

The Colossal Order CEO acknowledged that it is beneficial for people both within and beyond the industry to see female role models, as this will encourage more girls to consider a career in games.

“What I think what is happening now is that when we have female role models, girls can actually see that there are women in the games industry,” she says. “So I’ll think we’ll see more of them.

“But a large part of it is to do with how girls are brought up. Is it still the case that parents buy computers for the boys and dolls for the girls? I don’t know. We happen to have a lot of girls [at Colossal Order] who happen to have grown up in less conservative families. I was never restricted by the idea that there’s only women in certain industries.”

Hallikainen’s studio has a remarkably balanced workforce, with close to a third of its team comprised of women. But she says there has not been an intentional focus on hiring more women.

“We just search for the best person for each job,” she said. “Maybe the fact I am a woman means we get more applications from women than other studios – I can’t be sure of that. Is it just that we happen to have found that the best people to apply for our jobs have been women? We haven’t really put extra effort into specifically finding women for the company because we always aim for the best possible person.”