Lack of visible role models and cyber bullying contributors to esports’ gender gap

Marketers and esports professionals need to work together to fix esports’ gender diversity issues for the good of the industry, an audience at Mumbrella’s Sports Marketing Summit has heard.

Despite estimates that women make up around 45% of gamers, when it comes to professional esports champions, that number is dramatically lower.

In fact, as Dominic Remond, CEO Gfinity Esports Australia noted, there’s barely any mixed teams in Australian esports competitions: “There’s a lack of visible role models. In our series… we’ve got a mixed team, and it’s the first time there’s been a mixed team play in a level one league or tournament in Australia.

“The idea for us is basically to have role models, which will then provide a pathway for other women to understand that they are good enough to play.”

When asked if the lack of diversity in esports might turn some brands or marketers off, professional gamer Eileen Bell explained marketers are actually “more supportive, more than anything, because everyone knows it’s an issue.

“Brands are more supportive and are saying ‘what can we do to make it more inclusive? what can we do to make it more diverse?”

Bell, who was the first female professional esports player in Australia, explained how the skill gap exists because “you’re only as good as the players you’re exposed to. Gaming wise, there’s a 50/50 split, but when you look at a professional level and what you see on TV and Twitch it’s mainly dominated by males.”

Remond noted how cyber bullying is a massive contributing factor: “The online world can be a pretty nasty world, because people can hide behind screens. I know a lot of women who have hidden their identity when playing games online, because as soon as they identify themselves as female they often get ridiculed. So it’s a real industry thing. Bad behaviour needs to be called out.”

Bell agreed, adding: “That cyber bullying issue is extremely important to talk about, because it’s one of the hardest issues to tackle because you’ve got so many keyboard warriors out there that do hide behind their screen.

“That’s a big reason why a lot of females can find it too hard to go to that professional level because of that banter, because of what happens. It comes down to a resilience level… but you shouldn’t have to be that resilient to be at that level.”

Showdown’s ANZ managing director Scott Wenkart believes another problem is the way the games themselves are marketed: “The games that we’re talking about here are designed by successful marketing businesses. They’re businesses and they are designed to target guys and girls. What we’ll also see over the next coming years is more console-based games that might be more targeted to girls than guys.

“To play a game for as long as people play games – they’re playing for 15 to 40 hours a week – you’ve got to be really interested in it. It’s the same way as you go to a movie: it’s going to be genre specific as well.”

Showdown’s Scott Wenkart

According to Remond, the Gfinity production crew is a lot more gender diverse than the players themselves: “On our production crew we’ve got 50% women. The administrators, who are basically referees in our league, more than 50% of them are women.”

He explained how fixing the gender gap means a chance to double audience sizes, which can only be a good thing for the industry: “From an esports perspective, there’s a huge potential. If we could get gender diversity across esports players, then things will double, pretty much. I’m very confident that it will.”


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