At JKCP, we believe in the positive power of competitive gaming and Esports, so it should come as no surprise that we take every chance we can get to urge people to get involved! It is easier than ever for casual gamers to get involved with Esports just for fun and there are more avenues (and competition) for those that are working towards a goal of playing professionally.
One of the great things that we love about Esports is that with a solid internet connection and gaming rig or console, there are far fewer barriers to becoming competitive in Esports than many traditional sports typically have. However, some gamers face additional obstacles and may need more support as they delve into the world of Esports. Unfortunately, women still often find themselves in this category. Fortunately, as more gamers, fans, organizers, teams and others take notice we are starting to see the tides changing. We are looking forward to an increase in female Esports participation, both at the amateur and professional levels – this is absolutely going to make the gaming community much stronger and better for everyone!
Why is there less female participation in Esports?
While there is almost an even split of female and male gamers with about 44% female, the real issue is that there are less women participating in the professional industry as a whole. That means there are less female coaches, announcers, journalists, video game designers, streamers, etc. But, the most visible disparity can be witnessed in the amount of female professional gamers. Put simply, there are many fewer women who pursue Esports in amateur and online tournaments.
While women who play video games are much less likely to consider themselves ‘gamers,’ we know that the number of women playing video games is substantial and has continued to grow. They are also spending more time streaming and watching games online. However, despite these facts, women are very sparsely seen in the Esports community. For example, the Overwatch League just had its first female player signed in February of 2018 (out of over 150 players in the league).
While there are many phenomenal female professional gamers such as Sasha “Scarlett” Hostyn and Kat ‘Mystik’ Gunn we can’t wait to continue to celebrate as more women join and win Esports competitions!
How to Get More Female Gamers in Professional Esports
Increase the Number of Women Playing Amatuer Esports
Like most important issues, there are many interconnected factors that all play a role. Part of the reason that there aren’t a lot of women in professional Esports is because there aren’t enough girls engaging at Esports at lower levels. While women are playing video games, they aren’t seeking out competitive gaming nearly as frequently as men; this lower representation in amateur gaming does lead to a smaller pool of potential candidates at the professional level.
Encourage girls to get involved in STEM related professions
Unfortunately, women are also underrepresented in some of the fields that are typical or required for other gamer-related jobs; for example, gaming tends to go hand-in-hand with some ‘techie’ skills like coding. The good news is that we are starting to see initiatives around the world for helping more girls get into STEM professions!
More Women in Esports Careers
One thing that may help is not just women playing esports, but more women throughout the myriad of jobs inside of the Esports industry (Esports and gaming Career options). For example, many people believe that video game design does not always portray women as positively as men – having more women design and create video games could help address this issue.
Another great example of this conundrum is that Millennial men are usually considered the target market for Esports – therefore, much of the marketing is directed to this demographic, often to the detriment of reaching wider audiences, such as women. More women involved in marketing, and more astute holistic marketing, is needed to ensure that all demographics are welcomed and invited to participate in the growing industry, both as participants and fans.
Women Only Leagues
While most leagues and competitions do not separate men and women, a potential solution has been gaining traction; creating women only Esports tournaments – this is hotly debated, because some people are concerned that segregation by gender sets the tone for further separation and will not facilitate greater inclusion of women at the highest levels. Others argue that the opportunity will spark more interest and gain exposure for both the players and women in Esports in general. A good example of this is Girl Gamer Esports Festival – while it does include tournaments for women only, it also provides speakers, industry insight and fantastic networking opportunities.
Reduce Online Harassment Focused at Women
One of the hot button topics, certainly merited, is the amount of online bias and vitriol that women gamers tend to face. As you can imagine, anytime a gamer faces bullying and harassment it can be very discouraging for the player. This causes a feedback loop; women tend to pursue Esports less because of this online harassment, but since less women pursue Esports, the online harassment tends to continue.
Fortunately as gaming becomes more popular, there are more regulations and codes of conduct being put into place to help control this. Especially at younger ages and in organized areas such as high school teams, it can be a much more supportive type of community. It’s important that the gaming community changes the cycle. We need to eliminate any online harassment which will encourage more females to continue playing and get involved in all areas of the industry.
However, in order for any of the potential solutions to successfully increase diversity throughout Esports and gaming, some of the negative stereotypes, trolling and toxicity needs to be addressed. This is something that is incumbent upon all gamers, everywhere; we all need to continue to lift each other up, regardless of gender, and support EVERYONE inside of our gaming communities. This goes beyond just good sportsmanship and will make the transition for many women into gaming smoother than it has been in the past. Once we can begin to address this barrier for women, we are hopeful their Esports participation, at all levels, will begin to rise.
Start Girls in Gaming Earlier: Esports Summer Camp
One of the best ways to increase female participation at the professional level is to start the development process younger. While this isn’t going to instantly solve the problem, it should hopefully continue to set up a growing number of gamers for future success; hopefully, these gamers will keep seeping into the mainstream pro stream in increasing numbers in the future.
One key to set gamers up for success is to set them up with a supportive community and great coaching – a summer camp is one fantastic way to provide this environment. During the camp, the students will be provided a safe environment to learn and explore not only playing Esports, but some of the other career options that Esports provide.
As we mentioned previously, we believe that infusing the entire industry with more women would be beneficial: from players and coaches to developers and organizers, these roles and responsibilities are covered at the JKCP Esports Summer Camp.
Aside from girls learning skills and being introduced to the wide range of opportunities Esports has to offer, camps like this also offer a great lesson in sportsmanship to all participants regardless of gender.