Gender discrimination in the workplace has been notorious throughout the history of game development-- and it was no different back in 90s Japan, especially for early SNK artist Hiroko Yokoyama.
Thanks to translations provided by Necrosoft Games' Brandon Sheffield, Yokoyama shares some of her experiences through Twitter when 3D design was being introduced to games, and how women were essentially barred from learning the technology.
Yokoyama describes how the unnamed company she worked for in the '90s wanted to train two artists in the rising tech of 3D polygons, but any women applicants were instantly dismissed.
She volunteered to learn the tech herself after the two trained workers had left the company, but being married, her boss declined on the basis that “married women don’t work properly after giving birth.” He also apparently dismissed her work on the grounds that she was a “fat, ugly, otaku” and wrote off his comments with an "it's just a joke" excuse.
The boss’s logic was – we are training these people to learn technology and keep it in the company. He apparently said: “Since girls quit working after getting married, there’ll be no technology left in the company, so there’s no point in letting them do it.”— brandon sheffield (@necrosofty) August 4, 2018
The two guys who the boss invested in up and leave the company. They didn’t share the technology or learning with anyone, they just left. So in the end, what did he invest in? She was frustrated even more because of the boss’s impression that only women would leave like that.— brandon sheffield (@necrosofty) August 4, 2018
So as a woman you can’t learn anything new if you’re not married because you'll get married and leave, and you’re not worth investing in if you already are because you'll have a baby and leave. She says “Talking about it now, I feel like I was told ‘hey, eat shit.’”— brandon sheffield (@necrosofty) August 4, 2018
She doesn’t believe those decisions are all the way at the top, at least at that company, since women were allowed to be planners/designers, but middle management was keeping women “in their place.” (my own editorializing: they were worried about keeping their jobs/status quo)— brandon sheffield (@necrosofty) August 4, 2018
While Yokoyama eventually went on to to illustrate for the Sonic Wings games (and is currently collaborating on the SNK 40th Anniversary Collection), she's no longer working in the industry but is aware that gender discrimination remains active and expresses hope that the situation improves for the future.
Be sure to read the entire Twitter thread here, which goes into some more detail about how Japanese women in the 90s were pushed out of tech. It's well worth the read.