Women in Esports are terribly underrepresented, especially when you consider that the breakdown of men and women in the gaming community is nearing parity when you include mobile gaming and recreational gaming. Whether it’s female Esports players or female Esports teams, there simply aren’t enough around, particularly as you go towards the top professional levels.
Ever since ‘Gamergate’ onwards, very necessary discussions of gender inequality in gaming have been taking place. We’ve acknowledged that the lack of women in Esports is a problem but, thanks to a growing number of women making a difference, it’s a problem that’s beginning to be addressed, changes are happening, and more and more female Esports players are taking their rightful places in the games they play.
Why Aren’t There More Women In Esports?
Despite there being enormous female engagement with gaming, it’s still shocking to realise what percentage of gamers are female – somewhere around the low 40% mark. Even more shocking than what percentage of gamers are female is the percentage of Esports fans that are female, reported as 22% in a 2019 Nielsen report. That figure rises in countries where Esports have been part of the culture for longer – for example, the figure rises to 32% in Korea – again, that’s what percentage are Esports players and fans, not what percentage of gamers are female.
But despite the increasing engagement with Esports, there’s still that gender disparity – and it isn’t too hard to work out the reasons why. Gamergate opened the lid of the ridiculous levels of toxicity in Esports, and it’s terribly easy to find examples of the problems women in Esports have faced.
Take the classic example of the first female player in the Overwatch League, Kim (Geguri) Se-yeon, who’s regarded as being among the world’s best Zarya players. She was heavily accused of cheating and aim-botting (by her male opponents) and had to clear her name by proving her skills in a controlled environment.
Now, this could have happened to anyone of course, but it didn’t. It happened to the only female player the League had. It’s just one example of the many reasons that female players struggle to make their way into the ranks of the top players, and it has little to do with skill. One of the biggest issues by far is misogyny. This is reflected in both the general playing community and the pro world.
A simple exercise here: Google the question ‘Why aren’t there more female esports pros?’ and have a look at the search results, especially those in forums. The replies you’ll find there are shocking – from ‘women don’t have what it takes’ to ‘they can’t play anything but healers’, you’ll find just about everything.
Esports is seen as a boys club by far too many, with far too many men (and boys) acting as gatekeepers and preventing women (and girls) from taking their enjoyment, talent, and obvious skills to the next level. But, thankfully, things are getting better.
The Times They Are A-Changing… With Women
Over the last decade, thanks to many trailblazing women in Esports, we’ve seen things begin to change in Esports.
It’s in no way over, there’s still too much toxicity and far too many women still don’t feel comfortable or welcome. But as more women make their names as players, as leaders, as executives, as team CEOs, then things will keep getting better and better, something we should all be getting behind.
You’ll see more and more female Esports players and more and more female Esports teams out there, featuring some truly incredible players, including Dignitas Fe and CLG Red CS:GO teams, Cloud9’s Valorant team, Cloud9 White, and an increasing number of female players breaking through in the world of Fortnite, with the Gen.G Esports organisation signing up the first professional female Fortnite team of Maddiesunn and TINARAES in 2018.
The Women Making A Difference In Esports
This is a list that could, thankfully, be far larger than space allows, but here we present just a few of the names of those who have made, who continue to make, a huge difference for women and girls…
Eefje (Sjokz) Depoortere
A Belgian television presenter, Esports player, host of the League of Legends World Championships.
Started out as an interviewer for SK Gaming and CyberSportsNetwork, Depoortere is now the face and voice of League of Legends as the host of the World Championships, giving this presenter a huge role and presence in Esports.
Stephanie (missharvey) Harvey
A Canadian video game developer and a professional player of Counter-Strike and CS:GO.
Winner of five CS:GO world championships
Member of team CLG Red.
Harvey has been a passionate and powerful advocate against gender discrimination in pro gaming and is the co-founder of Missclicks, the Twitch channel and online community for ‘uplifting geeks and gamers through support, exposure, and inclusivity.’
Sasha (Scarlett) Hostyn
Canadian professional Esports player – ‘the Queen of StarCraft II’.
First woman (and first transgender woman) to win a major StarCraft II tournament – the Intel Extreme Masters, Season XII – PyeongChang, 2018.
Currently plays for Brave Star Gaming.
Hostyn was recognised by Guinness World Records in 2018 as having highest career earnings for a competitive videogame player (female) with £271,559.33.
Nicole LaPointe Jameson
The Chief Executive Officer of the Esports organisation Evil Geniuses from 2019.
Began the transformation of a once dominant team but one that was considered ‘storied, but fading’ (according to Forbes) with the reintroduction of CS:GO and LOL teams.
Increased representation at Evil Geniuses, leading to a 50% female management team.
As a black female CEO in Esports, Jameson’s influence is huge and she’s vocal on Esport’s issues with inclusion of all forms, but especially with gender.
The founder and lead content producer of the Korizon Esports network.
Kang’s passion for Esports, particularly League of Legends, led to her quitting her software developer career and launching the Korizon network, dedicated to bringing the vibrant Korean Esports scene to a global audience.
Madison (Maddiesuun) Mann & Tina (TINARAES) Perez
Professional American Fortnite players.
Maddiesuun and TINARAES joined Gen.G Esports in 2018 to become the first all-female duo team in Fortnite.
Maddiesuun became, in 2019, the first female player to qualify for the grand finals stage of the Fortnite Champion Series.
Co-founded by Amber (Athena) Dalton and Amy (Valkyrie) Brady in 2002.
PMS Clan, short for Psychotic Man Slayerz and Pandora’s Mighty Soldiers, is an all-female multi-platform online gaming group. They’re the original group as far as women making noise and making a difference in the world of Esports and are true trailblazers.
PMS Clan is one of the largest all-female gaming groups in the world and are heavily involved in the work to ‘help close the gap on gender disparity in competitive gaming’.
Cloud9 senior marketing Vice President.
The Esports team announced their first all-female Valorant team, Cloud9 White, in 2020, and Salvatore’s role at Cloud9 is another indication that women can and will succeed at the highest levels.
‘We subscribe heavily to the notion that if fans see [a female competitor] then they will believe, “I can be her,” – This is how we bring more girls and young women into this.’
Kim (Geguri) Se-yeon
A South Korean professional Overwatch player.
Member of team Shanghai Dragons
The first female player to be signed to an Overwatch APEX team and to an Overwatch League team.
Geguri made headlines in 2016 when accused (by her male opponents) of cheating by using aimbots – she proved her innocence in a controlled environment – sometimes, boys, the female players are just better than you are.
Kristen (Kittyplays) Valnicek
A Twitch streamer, founder of Team Kitty, a network of over 100 (mostly) women broadcasters on Twitch.
Valnicek recently became the first female streamer to transition into a business role in the Esports industry, becoming head of new gaming initiatives with Gen.G in 2018. Her role involves ‘expanding involvement in new gaming frontiers’.
‘What Fortnite has done is that it’s allowed these women to play pro … they can look at someone like me and say, ‘Oh my gosh, Kitty got third at the Pro-Am. That’s so cool; she’s a girl that did that. I wanna be like her when I grow up.’
In The End – Esports Are Changing… For The Better
The first step to success, so they say, is turning up. And year on year, along with the continued increase in awareness and popularity of Esports, we’re seeing ever increasing numbers of women and girls who are doing just that – turning up.
But more than that, these women and girls who are turning up in huge numbers are discovering that they’re damn good at all of the different Esports that they’re getting into and enjoying. And thanks to the trailblazers who are making a difference in Esports right now, just a few of whom we’ve pointed out to you, these women and girls will find it easier and easier to rise to the top and take their rightful places as the future stars of Esports. They will be the star female players, they will be part of great female Esports teams, and they could be YOU!