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Does Esports Have A Gender Inequality Issue?

Whenever you look at the esports community at large you see a range of people.

Parents trying to understand what their children are doing with their time, competitors, viewers, people in cosplay, and everything else in between.  

So far so diverse – right? Well, no. 

Take a look at what’s happening on stage and you’ll see this diversity is rarely replicated. 

No woman has ever competed at Dota 2’s ‘The International’ tournament for example.

In 2019 all 100 players who qualified for the Fortnite World Cup were men. Kim ‘Geguir’ Se-yeon is the only woman to compete in the Overwatch league playing for Shanghai Dragons. The most successful woman by prize money in all of eSports is Sasha ‘Scarlett’ Hostyn who played StarCraft 2. Yet her ranking by prize earnings is 341st in the world at just over $400,000. Her prize winnings amount to little more than a male player’s salary.

Arguably, young male athletes have had a natural advantage in many physical sports, however, unlike many traditional sports, esports can be a level playing field. Nevertheless, women have had to shrug off decades of gender bias, survive relentless stereotyping, and tolerate almost half a century of video game marketing orientated almost entirely towards teenage boys. Despite this, women have a pivotal role to play in esports, demonstrated more recently by an increasing amount of female broadcasting and playing talent.

Given the deep structural and cultural issues affecting women’s esports participation, they tend to be held to a different standard than men. Esports might look like an equal playing field but more needs to be done to give everyone a real shot at competing. Many people can agree that esports should be about equal opportunity, giving everyone a real shot at competing no matter what.  

eSportskred reached out to Tilde ‘7licious’ Byström, a professional CS:GO player for Copenhagen Flames. She has made some insightful points.

“In its current state, the female scene is at a much lower level than the top normal/male scene. But I would say that we are working our way up and that will become better and better as time goes on. From my experience, I think a lot of girls stop playing in the beginning because they are not used to getting that kind of hate that you can get online. I know that a lot of girls started to play a game and thought the game was really fun but they quit because they got tired of the comments people were saying. Don’t get me wrong, everyone gets hate on the internet but I feel like girls get more hate about them being girls and their appearance. Some people are kind and welcoming, and some people are super judgemental, sceptical, and toxic. It is honestly really random, but what I hate the most is when people expect you to be super bad at a game just because you’re a girl.  

Some people think that only women’s events create a gender divide but I think it can be good in one way, it’s always fun to compete against the other female teams and it’s a way for female teams to be able to earn money and get achievements. But I mainly think that it would be better if we started to play more against male teams also, to learn and to be able to become better and in the future as good as the male teams. Although, If females only play against and with the same kind of people we are never gonna progress. I feel like we need to step out of our comfort zone and play more “normal” qualifiers. I think we need to fail and fail again, while we continuously improve. I do agree that female tournaments also can be a good thing because it makes it possible for us to win money, to get a name in the scene, and of course, it’s always fun to play against other females. But I don’t think it’s doing something good for the development of the scene

Unfortunately, there are not many girls in the top level of esports and some people still perceive esports as a “boys club”. But I still feel like we will get there in the future, and that’s also a goal for me and my team. I did not have any females to look up to when I started playing CS:GO, I didn’t even know anything about the female scene when I started playing actually and hopefully in the future, there will be more women in the top level of esports for people to look up to.

In the future, I think it is absolutely vital to have some kind of educational system put in place to support teachers and schools on how to help young kids interact online and talk about the problems that women have in the industry at an early age especially when it’s such a big part of a lot of people’s lives. However, I don’t feel like the industry is doing anything specific to fix this problem but hopefully, in the future, there can be more done.”

The eSportskred solution helps female players to create a more open career and develops more opportunities by giving clear insight to players. Hopefully, this will encourage more females to be involved in esports by giving them a tool that provides insight on how to grow and monetise their brand. Our valuation tool analyses a social media audience based on its effectiveness as media – eradicating potential gender bias. 

This, of course, is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the challenges faced by women in esports.  

The American sociologist T.L Taylor sums it up perfectly.

“Esports needs to have more expansive, imaginative models of participation and engagement. It needs to understand that gaming is a mainstream leisure activity happening across all kinds of demographics in a range of varying contexts with their unique conditions and across a multitude of devices and genres. Fortunately, we now have more attention to this diversity of play. And more and more people are paying attention to the barriers to participation out there. With hard work and creative interventions we can build a future where everyone has a place at the gaming, and esports, table.”

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