Women in Localization: Perspectives from Japanese-to-English Localizers


If you ask the average outsider to picture someone who works in tech or video games, chances are they’ll picture a man. This may be especially true in relation to content from Japan, where women struggle to have their voices heard in the male-dominated workforce. Yet more and more women are becoming involved in tech industries. Entrepreneurs and professionals with broad experiences are working to change preconceptions. 

I asked Japanese-to-English localizers for their perspectives on women in localization. Though women have taken strides in the game localization sphere, the consensus among those I talked with is that there is still much work to be done on the industry’s side. 

Who knows best?

Everyone who offered comments agreed that women may be treated differently in the game localization world simply because of their gender. Belen, eight-year industry member and CEO and localization producer of Moonchime Studios, said that men challenge “their female colleague’s knowledge of video games,” though that beginning to happen less often. A freelance translator for a localization company in Japan agreed that treating women differently may be the norm, but it’s not universal.

Likewise, another Japanese-to-English game translator with nearly a decade of experience said that women are “considered less knowledgeable about what we translate than our colleagues.” She added, “Our questions can be shuffled off to a male peer who may be neither more knowledgeable nor more experienced for them to answer.”

Pay in-equality

Expanding on the challenges women face in gaming localization, two translators said that pay inequality remains one of the biggest obstacles to overcome. The male-dominated nature of gaming localization also contributes to a lack of diversity in the industry, according to Belen. Though more and more women join the industry every year, Belen said, they rarely gain leadership roles even if they are more capable than their male colleagues. Moreover, a freelance translator who joined the industry in 2016 listed maintaining a good work-life balance amid the pandemic and particular demands placed on women at home as overarching challenges.

There’s plenty of room for optimism as the gaming localization industry gradually welcomes women into more prominent roles. Eyeing a path to undermine stereotypes, the translator with nearly a decade of experience said, “My hope is that opening up more localization leadership roles to women and having more localization companies founded by women operating in the industry will lead to greater respect for both our work and our media in general.”

So how does the future look?

While dismissive and patronizing attitudes toward women in Japanese-to-English gaming localization continue, rising leaders push the envelope of expectations and possibilities for women in a field largely controlled by men. Belen has confidence in the prospects for women in localization. “Women can be some of the most creative and knowledgeable people in the industry,” she said. “Being in male-dominated spaces can be daunting, but our presence makes localizations so much better. Things are getting better and I’m optimistic about the future.”

Women in localization are taking a stand for equality, and it falls on leaders in the field to acknowledge their value. Gaming localization as a whole can fortify its foundation by accepting women as invaluable for growth and development.

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