Women and Civilization : thoughts and discussion


A man of his time
Apr 12, 2013
The ardent city
Hello everyone,

I would just like to open this thread to discuss about women in the Civ franchise, about their presence (or lack of/too much of). Do you think the multi leaders option is an occasion to add more women into the game ? Do you there's a disproportion between men/women within the Great People ? Do you believe women are being overrepresented in the game in proportion to their historical significance ? Do you feel some choices seem forced, while others are missed occasions ?

To add some numbers, there are, right now, in :
- Civ VI, 26 civs for 27 leaders. Among them, 8 are women : 29.9% of the leaders in game are women (Cleopatra/Egypt ; Catherine de Medici/France ; Victoria/England ; Gorgo/Greece ; Gitarja/Indonesia ; Jadwiga/Poland ; Amanitore/Nubia ; Tomyris/Scythia)
- Civ V, 43 civs for 9 women leaders : 20,9% (Maria-Theresa/Austria ; Dido/Carthage ; Maria I/Portugal ; Boudicca/Celts ; Isabella/Spain ; Catherine II/Russia ; Elizabeth/England ; Wu Zetian/China ; Theodora/Byzantium)
- Civ IV, 34 civs for 52 leaders. Among them, 6 are women : 11,5% (Victoria/England ; Elizabeth/England ; Boudicca/Celts ; Catherine II/Russia ; Isabella/Spain ; Hatshepsut/Egypt)
- Civ III, 31 civs for 6 women leaders : 19,35% (Joan of Arc/France ; Elizabeth/England ; Theodora/Byzantium ; Cleopatra/Egypt ; Catherine II/Russia ; Isabella/Spain)
- Civ II (not counting made up or too "legendary or godly" figures, which includes Shakala, Ishtar, Sheherazade, Nazca, Hyppolita, Amaterasu and Gunnhild), 21 civs for 35 leaders. Among them, 14 are women leaders : 40% (Eleonora Roosevelt/America ; Dido/Carthage ; Boudicca/Celts ; Wu Zetian/China ; Elizabeth I/England ; Cleopatra/Egypt ; Joan of Arc/France ; Maria-Theresa/Germany ; Indira Gandhi/India ; Bodei/Mongol ; Livia/Rome ; Catherine II/Russia ; Isabella/Spain ; Sacajewa/Sioux)
- Civ I : 15 leaders for 1 woman leaders : 6,7% (Elizabeth I/England)
I don't think Firaxis needs to abide by some arbitrary historical significance number and include, in general, many more men than women. I like having a mixture of both. More the merrier in fact. I really like that the game has the opportunity to have multiple leaders per Civ so that we can have a mix of different genders/strengths/histories.
I'm not at all interested in seeing the game mimic the historical ratio of significant women to men.

For one, because historical social norms relegated women to familial roles, so many talented women never got the chance to make contributions at the kingdom/national level. It would be disservice to female fans to copy an artificially distorted field.

For second, the game compresses civilizations, cultures, and leaders from the broad spectrum of human history and geography to one co-linear progression. It is utterly fictional to represent Ancient Egyptians alongside Modern Americans and Medieval Indonesians. If the game has already produced that anachronism for the sake of novelty and fun, why not throw in an above average number of female leaders?

EDIT: I think the current f/m ratio is okay. I wouldn't mind seeing it bumped up a bit further, but I don't see the need to make it 50/50.
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The current rate seems about right to me. Sure, likely more than is true for a pure historical perspective, but I think they do a great job overall of highlighting some very powerful female rulers from the past who are not household names. So while obviously everyone knows Cleo and Victoria, the rest of the civ 6 leaders are certainly lesser-known. And though some you could argue their historical merits (*cough*Catherine*cough*), the rest certainly seem like significant figures for their cultures.

I do think the multiple leaders gives them some leeway to explore some lesser known names, people like Catherine and Gorgo (assuming at some point in the future France ends up with a second leader). But I don't think they should "force" it like they did for civ 2. And like, if they wanted to add a second leader for the US, I don't think they need to go searching for a female ruler, since the US has never really had a female ruler. Keeping it somewhere around the 25% range seems reasonable to give some historical significance to those who did rule, without it feeling like they "forced" in too many women.
It really doesn't matter at all as long as they were relevant to their country and not because "omg a female!" The only ones that don't belong IMO are Cleopatra who seems consistently put in for sex appeal (not that it's a problem by itself), and it has happened a bit in previous incarnations to sorta bad taste (Catherine the Great in IV, much better in V) and somewhat more believable (Theodora). France's Catherine doesn't seem to fit, but probably someone more well versed in French history could tell me.
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If the game has already produced that anachronism for the sake of novelty and fun, why not throw in an above average number of female leaders?

I have to agree with this on face value. From the perspective of Firaxis, it is certainly a marketing strategy based on the current political climate. I highly doubt their motives were much deeper than that. Too, as @Eagle Pursuit pointed out, the game is already anachronistic in that it doesn't follow true history.

That said, I have no issue at all with the gender breakdown. It wouldn't matter to me if it were all females or all males or any mixture thereof. They are simply the leaders one must deal with in building one's civilization....within the context of Civ6, of course.
Yup, the business reason for more female leaders is definitely to appeal more to female gamers and avoid criticism on representation grounds, but even so it doesn't bother me at all - the historical gender roles of our world need not apply to the civilization you create in the game.
If more people can relate to the game more people will play it, so I'm all for including women as well as different cultures that might not feature as prominently in history as, say, Rome. I'll go a step further and say that when they include figures like Jadwiga and Amanatore that I'm not familiar with I usually read up on them. Part of the appeal of this game is that it brings aspects of history to my attention that I might otherwise have missed. I also agree whole-heartedly with Eagle Pursuit's post.
seems like i mostly agree with the sentiment thus far. I have my criticisms of the game and the approach at times, but the dedication to finding leadership qualities in historical female figures is a very good thing to me. History has always favored men and their accomplishments in traditional leadership roles, so featuring women who led in traditional roles whenever possible is a good thing. Further examining different ways that women have lead beyond traditional monarch/president/prime minister heads of state is the type of thinking i want to see more of in the world, because its the best way to approach history from a different angle and discover important ways in which female figures had influence. There's also the flip-side that the more different types of characters people see, the more types of people who could potentially relate to this game. taking a diversity-minded approach is good business. Its not like they are including women to the exclusion of men. (I do think there's an argument to be made that some pretty significant historical characters are missing which sorta makes it feel less like a 'Civilization' game sometimes, but i'm sure they'll come (Elizabeth, Washington, Napoleon, Genghis Khan, Caesar)
I don't mind the increase in female leaders. I hope Firaxis will add more, and not just from Europe. We already have four non-European female leaders (Cleopatra, Tomyris, Amanitore and Gitarja) and that's a good sign. I'm hoping for female leaders for the Maya and Korea.
I think they've got the balance about right in the last few iterations. Civ2's attempt at parity was totally not necessary, imho, but I have no problem with them choosing a somewhat more obscure figure in part because she's female - as long as she's interesting and was an important leader in her time and place.

The return of multiple leaders per civ plus the active modding community makes it easier to get whatever leader you want, no matter Firaxis' choice.

As for great people, I like how that mechanism gives the opportunity to include more women, and I've learned about people (both male and female) I'd never heard of outside the game. It's difficult to judge if a choice seems "forced" when I don't know much about hardly anyone in many of the great people categories. I don't know what the current ratio is, but if I were planning, I'd probably deliberately look for more worthy women if they were less than about 20% of the total. (And I'd like to see more 3 great people per era and type, but that's another topic.)
As others have mentioned, Civ VI's multiple leaders definitely helps with representation, both from a gender and gameplay perspective. Whether or not Firaxis will actually utilize the system in the future to its fullest extent is uncertain, but in theory it's a great idea. I agree that Catherine d'Medici is hardly the top choice for a French leader, but she definitely introduces a very interesting espionage-focused style of play as opposed to the super-heavy cultural style France had in previous iterations. If Napoleon or a similar famous French leader was already in the game, I doubt anyone would have many objections to her inclusion; it's not what she brings to the table that's the issue, but rather what some feel she's "replacing" (ie: a more archetypical leader). The same I feel goes for Jadwiga; even though her rule was short, she brings a cool religious aspect to Poland that another, more famous leader might not. For civilizations whose female leaders aren't some of their most famous rulers, the multiple leaders option allows them to be introduced without the feeling that they're "crowding out" more well-known, arguably more deserving ones.

There's also the small worry that, civilizations that do have notable female leaders, like England, will always have one to keep representation up, in a similar vein to how Gandhi always represents India even if there are other potential options. I think Russia shifting from Catherine to Peter in VI, and China from Wu Zetian to Qin Shi Huang is a good sign that Firaxis won't shy away from rotating leaders regardless of gender.
The leader should reflect the basic gist of that civ for the game, and the playstyle/units should reflect it.
eg: warmonger leadertype, the civ should be warmongery.

As long as the gender lines up with that, and we have a balanced amount of each, I don't care.
They should be historically significant as well, otherwise .. leave the leader out.
PC silliness gets the full nuclearpanzer treatment.
Definitely like the rate they're going right now. Agree with a lot of the responses that were posted here. However, I personally would like to see female leaders for Civs we don't usually associate them with. Just an opinion, Firaxis will do what they want.
I'm okay with it is as is. I wouldn't try to shoehorn even more women, however. Too much would really push the boundaries of reality too much. But it's not a particularly realistic game to begin with, so I'm okay with some of the less accomplished female rulers. I actually do appreciate the diversity. And yes I still think the Indonesia's voice sounds cute.

if they wanted to add a second leader for the US, I don't think they need to go searching for a female ruler, since the US has never really had a female ruler

Hilary Clinton? Too soon? Elizabeth Warren may win in 2020. Who knows. Both are better choices than Elanor Roosevelt.
America has options for non-presidents in terms of both female representation and non-white representation: Harriet Tubman will be gracing our $20 bill soon, MLK was an undisputed cultural leader, there are names amongst the founding fathers who were massively important to American history, Ben Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, both white men but still evidence of non-presidential leadership. There's also various leaders in civil rights attainment like Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony. We think about Civ as a game where you can win different types of victories, it only makes sense we get a little creative with different types of leaders.

I think living people are too soon, i've made this comment before about Obama in regards to black leaders in America. He's still alive, as is Hillary Clinton, and still involved in current events. not appropriate to include any of them at this time.
It is fine as it is, I think. As long as it doesn't seem forced or unnatural, I am fine with them having a higher ratio of female rulers than actual history. A bit more than fine, actually, since I enjoy the variety.
I personally find the notion that women will enjoy the game less if the ratio of male to female leaders is less than even to be a patronizing one.

It might be informative if women who play the game or who worked on the development team were to chime in on whether they feel patronized or not.
Frankly I don't really care how many female leaders are/aren't in the game. I care more about if the leaders they do choose, whoever they are, had important historical impact + their ingame powers represent what they are known for.
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