I stopped by GamesPlus in Mount Prospect to see if any of the gaming sages there would be able to help the 20 Sided Women Project, and the wife of one of the employees, Chris, was happy to respond. She had spent some time in the gaming industry in the 80's and shared a little bit of her experiences in an email to me.
When I joined Iron Crown Enterprises (ICE), I was one of only three or 4 women in the entire industy, so I stood out. Here are some quick thoughts off the top of my head (referring to how men treated me in the industry):
I never had to buy a drink at conventions :)
I had endless dating opportunities (in fact, I met Rett at a game convention) :)
I had many industry job prospects to choose from :)
Ok, all kidding aside:
1. I was treated with a lot of respect. I was the sales mgr at ICE and folks listened; the job demanded respect and I just assumed it.
2. Retail owners, when I visited their stores all over the country, would close the store for lunch & insist on taking me to lunch to talk business. In my current job, that would never happen.
3. I was the only woman and the youngest, initially, at ICE w/8 other employees (all men). One of them was very macho and chauvinistic, but I held my own and proved I could do the job. He even started to rethink his thoughts on women as a result (a big achievement I claim).
4. During my tenure, sales went from about $1-$5 million/yr (one of the best in the industry at that time)
5. Except for the one fellow, ICE had pretty progressive men working there. I never had to fight off a scantily-clad woman on the cover type thing. However, during this period, one of the covers that came out of FASA (of Battletech fame) was of a naked woman. The print run had to be recalled because retailers refused to shelve it. Had I worked at FASA, I would have fought that cover.
When I started at ICE, I had never played a rpg. I insisted that I was a sales person—I didn’t need to know how to play. The bossman conned me into “gametesting” Middle-earth Role Playing, which he insisted was an easier version (not as challenging as Rolemaster). Hah. Anyway, I recall rolling an E-Crit on the old game chart and my character died from a massive concussion. I could say I was so traumatized that I never played again—but that’s a lie. I played a few more times (and didn’t die), but I haven’t played an rpg in at least 12 years.
Thank you Chris for your insight!
It looks like from this, even in the 80s during the RPG boom, that being a woman in the RPG industry wasn't really a detriment, like it is perceived to be in many other industries. Of course, I'm only saying this talking to two women who were important in the industry at two different times... as more investigation continues we'll see how consistent this observation is.