It might surprise you to hear that 48% of people who play video games identify as female (Source: Entertainment Software Association). Furthermore 32% of female gamers will play five times per week (Source Newzoo). So why then are females so underrepresented in competitive gaming and esports and what might be done to bring more balance?
So what does the data say?
It’s difficult to provide an exact number or percentage for the ratio of women to men playing competitive video games, as it varies depending on the specific game and region. According to a 2020 report by Newzoo, females make up only 35% of esports viewers and 30% of esports participants.
Most alarmingly these numbers nose-dive when you look at tournament winners in esports.
For example, in the esports industry’s biggest event, The International (Dota 2), no female has ever been part of a team that has won the championship. Similarly, in the League of Legends World Championship, which is the biggest event for the game, no woman has ever won the championship.
However, there have been successful female esports players who have won tournaments. For instance, Sasha “Scarlett” Hostyn, a Canadian professional StarCraft II player, has won several international tournaments, including the Intel Extreme Masters and the Red Bull Battle Grounds. Katherine “Mystik” Gunn, an American professional Halo player, won the Championship Gaming Series 2007 World Final, which was a mixed-gender tournament.
There are not too many other examples which suggest there are clear barriers for female gamers to make it to the very top.
- Gender Stereotypes: Gaming has long been considered a male-dominated activity, and some people still hold onto the stereotype that gaming is not for females.
- Lack of Representation: Females are often underrepresented in the gaming industry. From characters in video games, to professional players and influencers, which can make it difficult to find role models and support.
- Online Harassment: Unfortunately, some online environments can be toxic and females are often subjected to harassment and abuse online. This can make it difficult for females to feel safe and welcome in the gaming community.
- Lack of Resources: Females may also face a lack of resources and opportunities in esports, such as sponsorship or coaching. This can make it more difficult for them to compete at the highest level, and may discourage them from pursuing a career in esports.
- Games made by Males: With the majority of competitive games being developed by male dominated studios, gameplay mechanics, storylines and visual design are brought to life by male brains. This can serve as a disadvantage to females who might find it less natural to master a game to the very highest degree.
Unlike in sports where physicality can create a competitive advantage for males, there is no obvious advantage that should stop females from reaching the very top in mixed gender tournaments. That begs the question…
What might be done to increase the opportunity for females to compete at the highest level?
There are several things that can be done to increase gender diversity in esports:
- Promote Inclusivity: Esports organisations can promote inclusivity by ensuring that their policies, practices, and cultures are welcoming to females. This can involve implementing harassment and discrimination policies, promoting diverse representation in their content and advertising, and providing resources to support female players and staff.
- Offer Equal Opportunities: Esports organisations can offer equal opportunities to women, such as providing equal prize pools, broadcasting their matches, and offering training and development programs. This can help to level the playing field and create a more equitable environment for female players.
- Provide Mentorship and Role Models: Female players and staff can be supported and encouraged through mentorship and role models. This can involve pairing women with experienced coaches or players, featuring successful female players in media coverage and advertisements, and highlighting female leaders in the industry.
- Increase Awareness: Raising awareness about the gender gap in esports and the benefits of increased gender diversity can help to create a more inclusive environment. This can involve educating players, staff, and fans about the importance of gender diversity and how to support female players.
- Expand Access: Expanding access to esports can help to increase gender diversity by creating more opportunities for women to play and compete. This can involve creating community programs and events, offering scholarships or financial support for female players, and providing access to technology and resources.
Overall, increasing gender diversity in esports requires a sustained effort from all stakeholders, including players, staff, organisations, and fans. but as we have seen from examples in traditional sports there is a demand and audience for competitive female competition. The question remains, will we see a rise in the creation of all female leagues or could Esports break a barrier that we don’t see in traditional sports where we see mixed-gender competition?
At GosuRabbit we are passionate about bringing gaming to as many people as possible, without discrimination. So this is a conversation we face often, when speaking with brands, when crafting strategies and creative, and in our own recruitment. We don’t have all the answers but we hope to bring some insight and offer some solutions.