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The Slow (But Steady) March Toward Inclusivity For Women In Esports

In honor of Women’s History Month, Subnation Media is hosting the Esports Roundtable: Fair Game Wednesday, March 31, 2021 11:00 am PST. RSVP here.

Gaming and esports have seen tremendous growth over the past 18 months. The stay-at-home orders of 2020 have supercharged an expected growth rate of 9% annually in the coming years.  Viewership on platforms like Twitch has jumped by more than 50% in 2020 as more and more people consume video game-related content.

But despite all of this expansion, the gaming and esports industries continue to be dominated by men, even though more women are playing video games than ever – with some studies finding that women actually make up 41 percent of all gamers in the United States. So, why haven’t opportunities for women within our industry grown at the same meteoric pace as the industry itself?

Historically, women have faced numerous challenges in the world of gaming and esports — whether it be on the corporate or competitive front. From discrimination in the workplace to toxic online behavior at play, many would argue that the world of video games has been anything but a safe space for the women. However, female-focused initiatives are finally starting to catch steam, and rightfully so. 

For example, the  Women in Games Ambassador program has grown to include 12 Corporate and 446 individual ambassadors across the world who are all working together to support women in the games industry. Several female content creators, including Pokimane and KittyPlays,  have viewership numbers that rival their male counterparts in the space.

Still, women trying to entrench themselves within the ecosystem, can face intimidating barriers to entry that men in the same industries do not.

“For young women entering esports, aligning yourself with partners, both women and men, that are sensitive to the understanding that women are sometimes marginalized is so important to build the right support framework,” said Angela Bernhard Thomas, Founder at A-Game Esports, an esports company helping brands connect to gamers. “Leaning into more of your own unique qualities and knowing that you belong in whatever room you’re in, can help to boost confidence in a very competitive environment.”

Taking part in initiatives like Women in Games and surrounding yourself with a strong support structure are both great first steps for success. Regardless, it’s going to be a long road to actually shift the current “boys club” culture which we see perpetuated across emerging game industries such as VR or Metaverses. 

Among the things helping push the inclusivity movement for women forward are initiatives at the corporate level. Dignitas, owned by the Philadelphia 76ers, launched the Dubbed _FE initiative to support female esports players with educational, social, and competitive resources, whether they are in beginner, amateur, or professional roles. _FE is a reference to the term used for females in esports. Initiatives like _FE are exactly what industry leaders believe will make a difference in gaming. “Finding a mentor, continuing self-education and honing proficiencies in business skills never goes out of style and are always great tools to have,” Thomas added.

While a long journey towards fairness and gender-based inclusivity remains, these initiatives are blazing the trail for future generations of women and are encouraging females of all ages to pursue their interests in gaming by creating a safer, less-biased environment. 

Women are a powerful force for change in all corners of our industry. I have been very fortunate to witness the growth and transformation of the industry thus far, and believe gaming and esports will only be better as a result of our presence within it. It is my hope that the next generation of women will be able to see endless opportunities to achieve their goals in gaming and esports, and as a result, ensure a more diverse and inclusive future for all.