Studies show that women in esports comprise 30 per cent of esports viewership and 35 per cent of esport gamers. These numbers are growing each year.
Girls and young women represent only a fraction of the upper echelons of competitive gaming, not because they aren’t present but because they often do not feel empowered to believe in their gaming abilities.
We asked leading women in esports to share their solutions, experience, and advice for welcoming and empowering more females in the space. Here’s what they had to say.
Include Women in Leadership Roles
Nicole Pike, Global Sector Head of Esports & Gaming at YouGov
The ultimate goal is more women representing decision making and authentic influence on the direction of esports globally, Pike told Esports BAR.
“Candidly, I believe we still have a long way to go here – but I believe that more than ever, the industry recognizes the benefits that female leaders can bring to this space,” she said.
Stakeholders are offering more support to women in esports, Pike noted, adding that several teams have made female empowerment a priority over the last 6-12 months. Better yet, these efforts go beyond a “talking point aimed at selling more jerseys or increasing viewership stats,” something Pike has seen far too often.
Empowering women in esports begins early, says Pike, and it will make all the difference how others treat them in the pipeline from amateur to pro.
“Esports is a microcosm of the most elite gamers around the world; the funnel for who gets there and how begins when females pick up their first mouse or controller and either feel accepted and rejected by the gaming community,” she concluded.
Make Esports and Game Publishers More Inclusive
Kristin Connelly, Sr. Director Marketing, Overwatch & Call of Duty Leagues, Activision Blizzard Esports
When it comes to empowering women in esports and game publishers, Connelly says, there is no question as to why — only how.
“No one can argue that diversity is integral to the success of any gaming or competitive entertainment endeavour,” she said. “However, it’s been a challenge for females to continue moving up the rank in competitive play and feel positively supported by the community.”
Game publishers and esports groups need to help foster more inclusive environments so that everyone can feel supported, Connelly advises.
“At the end of the day for esports, we simply want to see the most talented team or person – male, female, or non-binary – rise to the top and be crowned the victor.”
While she believes there is a long road ahead before competitive play becomes more gender diverse, Connelly is proud of Blizzard’s efforts thus far.
“[There is a] strong mix of women who support Call of Duty League, Overwatch League, and Blizzard Esports both within our league office as well as within our teams,” she said. “Hiring females to our departments and teams, then providing them with the support, mentorship, and advocacy to become leaders is the most impactful initiative we can undertake.”
Promote the Presence of Women in Esports Media
Maria Carmen Fernández Tallon, Innovation & New Business Manager at MEDIAPRO Group
When it comes to attracting women in esports media, Fernández Tallon believes there is a simple solution.
“The more diverse content we have, the broader audience we will reach,” she notes. “Thus [the solution]is about ensuring the woman’s presence in all the spaces of the scene. At MEDIAPRO Group, we are trying to reduce the gender diversity gaps in every league or content we produce.”
To grow, Fernández Tallon says that MEDIAPRO must be as inclusive as possible. After all, the esports audience is diverse, and the number of women in that audience is growing.
“We must boost it by promoting the presence of women in the competitions, in the content production and casting, and also in our management layer,” she explains. “We are encouraging competitive teams, technical production teams and the rest to embrace this philosophy.
Thus far, the company’s “firm gender diversity strategy” on content creation has worked. Women audiences surged by 36% during Liga de Videojuegos Profesional (LVP) broadcasts and up to 31% on MEDIAPRO’s UBEAT esports and entertainment multiplatform,” Fernández Tallon shared.
Create Esports Marketing for Women
Tatiana Tacca, Esports advisor & consultant at TT.GG Advisory
“Brands who are developing bespoke strategies toward the women esports & gaming market are realizing that there are a major whitespace and untapped value,” says Tacca. “While they are making a positive impact on the inclusivity in the gaming space, it’s also good business: 62% of women esports fans believe that brands do not market to them, and 72% believe that women are not well represented in the esports space.”
Tacca has noticed more brands realise this opportunity and form partnerships to develop customised programming and targeted value. These efforts include programs targeted to female fandom, as well as activations alongside women-first gaming properties or talent, she explained.
“ColourPop partnering with Animal Crossing for a bespoke line of make-up, while leveraging Queens Gaming Collective to promote it through live-streamed content is a great example of driving revenue around an active women esports community,” says Tacca. “Similarly, Sweetgreen partnered with the biggest female streamer, Valkyrae, on a featured custom salad bowl to drive sales.”
Over the last 12 months, the esports industry has started making a much more committed effort to prioritising women-first initiatives, added Tacca. She named eFuse’s Women of the eRena tournament, Queens Gaming Collective, Cloud9’s all-female Valorant team, and Riot Games’ Valorant Game Changers program as some of her favourites.
Communicate and Seek Resources
Angela Natividad, co-founder & chairwoman at Hurrah Group
If you are a woman in esports or gaming or industry, Natividad assures you that you are not an island. That goes for men in the industry and want to be more inclusive but aren’t sure how to get started.
“Professional men are taking the matter of women in esports seriously, at all levels,” she said. “They don’t often know how best to approach or support women, so I encourage women to feel free to reach out to men you’ve networked with and who make you feel safe.”
“Also, [here’s advice] for men in esports leadership roles who don’t always know how to manage complex situations involving women. Suppose you have a weird feeling about how a meeting went or feel odd about something somebody said to an employee or colleague. In that case, it is okay (and often much appreciated) to reach out and talk to her directly about it. You will be surprised what you learn or how often women laugh off comments or actions that actually deeply trouble them. This is a signal that you take them seriously as professionals and as fellow humans.”
This is an excellent time for woman-identifying and other minority developers because so many indie gaming firms are being born, and they’ve got eyes for diverse and interesting talent,” says Natividad. There are many resources to help you on your professional journey.
WIGJ has become quite active in esports, she notes, designing mentorship and support programmes in many different countries and global online events.
“You also get a lot of direct insight from other women on how to advance, or just get by, within corporate gaming cultures that don’t have many women employees,” she said.
Riot Games partnered with WIG France to support the I-WIG Incubator programme for women gamers who’d like to advance to the pro level or “level up” their existing skills in League of Legends.
Natividad says that firms like Ubisoft and Quantic Dream have an excellent track record for woman hires when looking for work. Recruitment company, Hitmarker, is active in supporting women and minorities seeking jobs in esports,” she adds.
“Their staff is also sensitive to delicate questions women have about company culture and how seriously certain employers take harassment.”
More women enter esports at the service level, on the team side, brand-side and in business. Most of Hurrah Group’s brand-side clients have been women, Natividad notes, adding that the company advocates directly for esports within its (often non-endemic) companies and supports the development of expertise for people involved.
“There are more women now than when I started, but still not enough — 5% in the business, last I checked — so the vast majority of sector women are open and receptive to mentoring and otherwise supporting younger cohorts,” she said.