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What Prevents Women from Going Pro in Esports?

Fernando Mendez | Posted on May 03, 2019

The Ongoing Lack of Women in Esports

Have you ever been to a local video game tournament? If you haven’t maybe you’ve seen a major tournament live such as Evo or DreamHack on Twitch or YouTube. Now try to spot how many female players there are. Low, isn’t it? Simply put, there’s a lack of women playing in esports. If you don’t know, esports is a kind of competition with video games. Esports games include Overwatch, Tekken 7, Street Fighter V, CS: GO, Dota 2, and just about any other game that might have a competitive scene. The esports scene is at the peak of its growth with 2019 being the year the industry will top $1 billion. With more people watching shouldn’t there be more women playing?

Playgroudz Percentage of women and men playing video games


In a Leisure Economy Research Study, Playgroundz reported that in 2018, 22% of esports team members were women. In major esports titles such as CS: GO, Hearthstone, and Overwatch around one-fourth of their player base are women. This statistic is perplexing because women make up nearly half of the total of all gamers. Shouldn’t there be an equal number of people playing?

Stephanie Harvey

Stephanie Harvey, a well-known CS:GO player

In order to answer this question, we first need to find the barriers that prevent women and dissuade women from entering esports in the first place.

One barrier that prevents women from going pro is toxicity. This is by far the most common explanation for women not entering esports, but it’s still a valid one. In a research study done at California State University, it was revealed that female gamers are sexually harassed more on Twitch than male ones.

“It’s an extremely toxic environment,” said Stephanie Harvey, a successful CS: GO player. “To be a woman in esports, you have to have a thick skin.”

Maria “Remilia” Creveling

Maria “Remilia” Creveling, League of Legends player

It’s clear that women are targeted more than men. This toxicity can even make it difficult for professional female players to compete. For Maria “Remilia” Creveling, a transgender woman competing in the LoL esports, it drove her to quit. After making it to the LoL Championship Series, Creveling quit after constant sexist and transphobic harassment she experienced.

T. L. Taylor

T. L. Taylor, founder of AnyKey, an organization that helps women get into esports

The fact that the esports scene is male-dominated is the main reason there are barely any women that are pro. With less women playing it’s less likely that we’ll see pro female players. The reason the scene is male-dominated is because of the idea that esports, and gaming in general, is a male-only ordeal. There have been perceptions that men are superior to women in gaming. However, research done in the University of Texas at Austin proved that there’s no substantial evidence to prove this.

So how can the game industry encourage more women to play in esports? Well, there have been various attempts to solve this issue over the years.

One proposed solution is female-only tournaments. These tournaments allow women to test their skills in a comfortable environment. However, the effectiveness of these events in attracting women is yet to be proven, even with Electronic Sports World Convention running a women-only tournament for CS: GO. T. L. Taylor, a sociologist at Brandeis University, says that these tournaments create segregation between men and women. It creates the assumption that there is a difference between men and women by treating women in these competitions as a novelty, instead of being equals.

Susie “LilSusie” Kim

Susie “LilSusie” Kim

The same applies to failed attempts to market towards women. Attempts from companies to highlight female gamers have been seen as a PR stunts. It continues to have the same effect of trying to make female gamers seem like a rarity rather than being common. These efforts can also bring unwanted attention.

“(Women) don’t want to deal with the toxicity. They don’t want to deal with the media going crazy over them,” said Susie “LilSusie” Kim, a host, caster, and director of Youth Esports Education and Training at Cloud9 and Spitfire. “They just kind of want to play.”

Interpret, women watching esports

From 2016 to 2018, female esports watchers increased by 6.5%.

So if these methods to drive women into esports failed, then what is the solution? In order to persuade women to play esports, it shouldn’t be done by dividing them up or giving them unwanted attention. Unlike traditional sports, esports are entirely genderless. Any person from any walk in life is allowed to enter and that’s what makes competitive gaming great. While there are barriers put upon women, it should not undermine the various amount of women that are actively involved in esports today. The real solution is time. The number of women playing esports is low, but it’s increased over the years. More women have started to watch esports. According to Interpret, from 2016 to 2018, 30.40% of esports viewers were female, an increase of 6.5%. This tells us that more women are gaining interests in esports despite the barriers that prevent them from playing. There’s no need to treat women as special snowflakes, but instead, there should be more emphasis on respecting them as equals, continuing to enjoy the games we all love, and supporting the women that continue to make esports great.


Japanese Tekken player YUYU

As female Japanese Tekken player YUYU said, “I want there to be more (women), and I think there will be more in the future. And someday, if someone says they want to be a strong player like me I’d be happy.”


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