ESports is expected to bring up to $1.1 billion of revenue in 2019, according to Newzoo, but among all those talented guys competing, where are all the ladies? While female gamers do compete on a professional level, there are far less doing so than their male counterparts. Attracting more ladies to the profession is great in theory, but easier said than done due to existing demographics and unique challenges faced by the players, themselves.

Majority Rules

The eSports industry is thriving with young consumers, but the fact of the matter is, most of those consumers happen to be male. While that’s certainly not a bad audience to attract, broadening the eSports fan base to include more females won’t be an overnight success.

“Right now the larger part of the eSports ecosystem has a predominantly male focus,” SuperData CEO, Joost van Druenen told [a]listdaily. “For example, viewership among channels like ESL, MLG and others that focus on eSports is 80-plus percent male, compared to the more mainstream platforms like Facebook and YouTube. It is most likely that the latter will emphasize more inclusive content. One thing that teams can do to broaden their appeal is to cultivate teams that are not exclusively male.”

That’s the idea behind “Bonnie and Clyde” tournaments, an idea dreamed up by Bandai Namco brand manager, Mark Religioso. The tournaments will consist of one man and one woman to shake things up. Religioso also began laying the groundwork for a mentoring program to foster interest in eSports among women.

“These are baby steps so that we can get more women on the team,” Religioso told The New York Times. “We need to make the scene a welcoming place.”

Intel-sponsored CS:GO team, LGB
Intel-sponsored CS:GO team, LGB

Encouragement Goes A Long Way

In addition to all-female competitions, brands are working together to help women feel welcome in the growing eSports community. Intel and ESL partnered to form AnyKey, an advocacy organization that seeks to create support networks and provides opportunities for women in eSports.

“If we want to see women competing at the top-tier, we have to build a groundswell,” said Morgan Romine, PhD, director of initiatives at AnyKey during a 2016 GDC panel. “That’s happening a lot at the college level, and we need to encourage the women playing with their friends to follow their competitive ambitions. You have to see it to be it.”

Twitch hosts a dedicated channel called Misscliks, a support community for women in gaming. The channel was founded by four women—Anna Prosser Robinson, programming manager at Twitch, Geneviève Forget, the international product manager on Ubisoft’s Rainbow Six Siege; Counter-Strike world champion Stephanie Harvey, and Stephanie “MissAvacyn” Powell, community manager for Roll20, an online tabletop RPG service.

While it’s easy (and understandable) to complain in the face of sexism or harassment experienced by many female gamers online, Misscliks co-founder, Anna Prosser says that staying positive does far more good.

“We say very often ‘build up, never tear down.’ So as a philosophy, we try really hard to speak positively as opposed to negatively, even about things that are big, negative issues,” Prosser told Vice. “If you look really hard at a bad situation, you can find one person who’s doing something really good. Focusing on [that one person] and the good they’re doing is our strategy.”


The Interest Is There

Twenty-two percent of women say they’re involved in eSports compared to 18 percent of men, according to a report by PwC. “While the difference is relatively small, it indicates an early trend that women may be just as, if not more, engaged with eSports than males,” PwC noted in the report. “For viewing versus playing, men are playing slightly more than women, and men appear to watch from a competitive lens, while women appear to watch for enjoyment and for the social aspect of the viewing experience.”

“As the female eSports audience continues to grow, so too will the number of female players,” Deborah Bothun, entertainment, media and communications leader at PricewaterhouseCoopers told [a]listdaily. “Overall treatment of females in the gaming community has become a noteworthy topic that is being discussed, and we have heard discussion of all-female tournaments, for example.”