Why diversity and inclusion in tech isn’t just another box to tick

Yvonne Ottley explains how the lack of representation in gaming content led to create Frobelles and how more inclusion will be a gamechanger in the tech world.

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My name is Yvonne Ottley, and alongside my 11-year-old daughter, Alyssa, I am the CEO of  the UK’s first Afro hair championing game, Frobelles. 

It was never on my roadmap to become an app developer, and the reasons for my foray into  the tech industry are rather bittersweet. In 2023, we should be creating new products that  push the boundaries of what has previously been possible in tech, not having to create  products that counteract a lack of basic representation.  

Child’s play

Children naturally want to express themselves when playing dress up games or personalising  avatars; they want to create an ideal version of themselves, and experiment with their hair,  makeup, clothes, and shoes, as they begin to form their own identities. Sadly, for a lot of young girls, it isn’t that straightforward.

At just six years old, my daughter asked me why none of her game characters had natural hair  like hers, and I had to grapple with an explanation that wouldn’t risk further damaging her  self-esteem. It might seem like a small issue to some, but it can have an enormous impact,  especially given the social prejudice surrounding natural hair in day-to-day life, whether in  school or in the workplace. 

Hair-raising findings

I spent several days searching for games that had diverse characters with Afro hair, but I was  deflated by what I found, or rather didn’t find. Either the characters were black, but had little  to no Afro-hair options, or in the case of the most popular games, Afro hair styles were being used in a culturally appropriated way.

According to a recent study by Curry’s PC World, across 10 different genres of games, you’re  67% more likely to have a white-only protagonist, compared to 3% BPOC. This is hardly a  surprise when you consider that only 2% of game designers in a country the size of the US are black, therefore black characters are consistently underrepresented or misrepresented. 


It’s this lack of representation that is having a very negative impact on the self-esteem of  young girls, and I didn’t want other families to keep going through the disappointment it  brings, so Alyssa and I started designing characters for Frobelles, working with an illustrator  to bring them to life.

The vibrant, educational, fun, and user-friendly game is voiced by Alyssa, and has three core  characters: Coco, Kelli and Krista, all with beautiful Afro hair that can be styled in a variety of  ways, including Fulani braids, Puffs and Bantu knots.  

The app officially launched in 2021 and has since grown beyond just a game, it’s an online community with sisterhood at its heart. While I’m incredibly proud of the product, its growth,  the community we have built and the plans we have in place, an app specifically designed for black hair representation should never have been needed in the first place. 

Game-changing representation

I want to encourage game creators to be more intentional about representation in the future,  and to consider the impact their products can have on young children. As early as 3-4 years  old, they begin to shape their racial and ethnic identities and may form preferences based on  them – this surely highlights the significance of promoting positive, diverse representation for  children from a young age, which can in turn help to foster self-esteem, inclusivity, and  acceptance. 

I think it’s imperative that gaming and tech studios consider just how beneficial hiring a diverse workforce is; people who can understand the various nuances and ensure that  opportunities to make a positive impact are not missed. I truly challenge them to take  diversity and inclusion seriously, not just be performative or engage in tokenism.

Black representation is more than just a box to tick. 

Yvonne Ottley - founder of Frobelles

Frobelles is the UK’s first afro-hair championing game that’s challenging racial bias and pushing for more inclusivity in the tech world.

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