Women in STEM: Bonnie Ross
Last year, Bonnie Ross became just the twenty-third person to be inducted into the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences’ Hall of Fame. And, it’s easy to see why! Bonnie is the Corporate Vice President of Microsoft and head of 343 Industries, a division of Xbox Game Studios, the studio that runs the highly successful Halo franchise.
Quite an impressive resume but as the academy noted: “Ross is a key voice in promoting STEM and diversity efforts across the gaming industry amongst women, under-represented minorities, and children.” That’s why she’s the perfect choice to be featured this month as part of Tynker’s Women in STEM series.
As a child Bonnie took an interest in reading and science-fiction, leading her to pursue a degree in Technical Communications from Colorado State University with a concentration in Physics and Computer Science.
Years later, Bonnie returned to CSU as an alumna to talk to students about combining her creative side with her passion for technology: “Technology empowering art and technology empowering storytelling.” She went on to explain, “It’s not that they’re just playing our game and playing our story. They’ve kinda broken the fourth wall, and they’ve kinda jumped into our story.”
She also spoke to students about promoting gender diversity in the gaming industry, whether it be the people making the games or the characters in them. To that end, Bonnie co-founded the Microsoft Women in Gaming community as a way for women in the industry to network and support each other.
Bonnie began her career at Microsoft in 1994 when the company was just getting into PC gaming, eventually using her experience as a high school basketball player to help develop one of their first basketball video games: NBA Full Court Press.
In 2007, Bonnie took over the reins of Halo, the critically acclaimed science fiction/military video game series, focusing on growth while advocating for good storytelling. And, of course, ample amounts of creative coding (and math) to bring the games to life more and more each year.
With Bonnie’s leadership, Halo has sold over 65 million copies worldwide, incredible numbers that make it one of the highest-grossing media franchises of all time, spinning off into comic books, graphic novels, television series, and movies while generating almost $6 billion in global sales.
In 2014, Bonnie was named one of Fortune magazine’s most powerful women in gaming. And in 2018, she played a key part in The Ad Council’s “She Can STEM” campaign, encouraging girls to get involved in science, technology, engineering, and math. Her message: “You have the power to bring new worlds to life.”
This is the kind of thinking that Tynker loves, forging new paths in technology while inspiring the next generation of girls to join her in a STEM career. We can’t wait to see what Bonnie—and the girls—will come up with next!