With the #MeToo movement underway, the tide is rapidly turning for women who have been subjected to sexual assault, harassment and discrimination. In record numbers, predators in politics, entertainment and business are being held to the fire by their victims, lambasted publicly and, in many cases, exiled from their industry.
As this swift wave of progress continues to dominate news cycles, those of us in esports must take a hard look at how we treat women and commit to taking steps to make our space more inclusive and free of sexual harassment and abuse.
While esports is a male-dominated space, women play a major role in the gaming community. Adult women represent 31 percent of the video game-playing population, making up a greater portion of the population than males under 18, according to the Entertainment Software Association. Nearly 30 percent of esports fans are female, according to Nielsen research.
We’re going to see a lot more women in esports in the years to come, and we must embrace and support their inclusion and success. Here are some actions we in the industry can take to achieve a brighter future.
Game developers and other organizations in the space can proactively work to support women in esports by first taking action in their own communities. Being proactive about bullying and harassment is not only the right thing to do, it is a way to foster loyalty in female gamers.
Some methods: lead healthy dialogue with community members about the importance of inclusivity, and stand up for victims of harassment and transparently jettison perpetrators. Consider running anti-bullying and sexual harassment campaigns. As an organization, sit down with women on your team and work together to create a clear stance on the issues of sexism and harassment, and promote it. This will show you recognize the problems at hand and are doing your part to fix them.
If women are being chased out of communities or leagues because their successes are followed by accusations of cheating or “using their bodies to win,” don’t ignore the issue. Cite facts to disprove myths that women are weaker players. For example, a research report published in the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication found “the stereotype of female players as inferior is not only false, but also a potential cause for unequal participation in digital gaming.”
Bottom line: speak up. Silence from allies only exacerbates the problem.
Hire more women
When we hire women, who are qualified for positions in esports, it not only opens doors for companies that are aren’t quite hitting the mark with their female demographics, it sets a great example and brings invaluable insight to the organization.
In addition to serving as advocates and role models for other women in esports, they bring unique wisdom critical to inclusive and effective marketing, community engagement, game creation and countless other aspects of esports.
As marketing director for esports platform RumbleMonkey, an untold number of PowerPoint decks from other esports organizations fly across my desk. Too often, I find myself having to ask sales representatives to share information about their female demographics, as if it’s a secret item on a fast food menu.
I recall one presentation in which a potential business partner broke down its target demographics into two categories: “Males 18-34” and “Persons 18-34.” Women, it appeared, were irrelevant. When I asked the man behind the deck why women were not referenced in the breakdown, he explained, “The majority of esports companies are only interested in marketing to males.”
As a woman representing my esports organization, I educated him on the ignorance of that approach, given that women make up a significant number of esports athletes and fans. I imagine that having women in key positions at his organization would have prevented this obtuse, denigrating vision of women’s role in esports.
As we work toward a more inclusive future for women in our space, it’s important to remember that men and women must work together to impact our trajectory.