Female Esports Pros Hope To Close The Gender Gap

Image: Supplied

Women remain a minority in the esports industry, but they have always been a presence in competitive gaming scenes. Compete's video team interviewed four female esports experts about their successes, their struggles, and their different takes on competitive gaming's gender disparity.

Sherry "Sherryjenix" Nhan, a pro Street Fighter player, got her start in an all-female fighting game tournament. In her words, she "got destroyed" in that first competition, but it got her hooked. She became determined to keep practicing and grow her skills.

As Nhan's experience shows, women-only tournaments can provide opportunities to showcase female players and inspire other women to join in. However, separating female players from their male peers implies that women wouldn't ever be able to keep up. Christina Alejandre, the VP of Esports for Turner Sports and the GM of Eleague, voiced her hesitation about gender separation in tournaments and emphasised that she sees video games as "an even playing field." Eleague's most recent televised tournament, a Street Fighter V invitational, featured both male and female competitors facing off.

Although the playing field for competitive games is equal in theory, women competitors are not treated the same as their male counterparts. T.L. Taylor, a professor of Comparative Media Studies at MIT, described these discrepancies to Compete: "What we hear from women is that when they go online and are not hiding their gender, they often face consistent pushback."

Women who work in other areas of the esports industry can also be underestimated by their male peers. "Sometimes it is a struggle," Turner Sports' Christina Alejandre said. "Sometimes, you're the only female sitting in a meeting room and people assume that you're there to get coffee or take notes."

Pro gamer Sherry Nhan also described the persistent harassment she has received online, such as gendered insults and disparaging comments about her looks. However, Nhan says that the fighting game community has always been welcoming to her when it comes to in-person interactions. Rachel "Seltzer" Quirico, a former pro gamer and current esports host, echoed that sentiment: "Whether you're a sister or a brother in this scene, it's very much a family feel for me."

This is the final instalment in Compete's new season of competitive gaming videos. Other videos in this series have covered retired Halo pros describing a decade of changes in esports, the University of Utah's first-of-its-kind varsity esports program, the Southern California fighting game scene, and the medical experts who keep esports pros healthy.

VIDEO CREDITS:

Executive Producer

Japhet Weeks

Brooke Minters

Senior Producer

Anastasia Weeks

Producer

Zoe Stahl

Associate Producer

John Dargan

Shooter

Jorge Corona

Editor

Anders Kapur

Graphics

Devin Clark

Writers

Maddy Myers

Eric Van Allen

Additional Consultation from Editor-In-Chiefs

Stephen Totilo

Tim Marchman

Photo Courtesy of

Turner Sports

Footage from

Madison Square Garden

Turner Sports

RedBull Video

Blizzard Entertainment

PGLWednesday Night Fights

Yahoo Esports

The ESL Gaming Network

Esports World Convention

EVO Championship Series


Comments

    Welp ok, where to start.

    I think about two years ago there was an article on this subject that I think I had a slightly different opinion of than today. Back then I was of the opinion that there was no room in esports for segregation outside of regional leagues, but two years later I am pretty undecided on the subject. I think that there is one of two outcomes here, we either;

    A) Embrace segregated leagues knowing that it will just cause division amongst the fanbase, competitors and organisers. This is good because it will make leagues competitive with each other much more interesting as a viewer (I am a schmuck for showboating), but bad because it will become part of someone's narrative and likely come back to haunt the female players long term.

    B) Force females into bi-uniform leagues that are the only recognised ladders (ie LoL). This option is the ideal one (in a perfect world) however unless changes are made to legitimate security issues this is kind of unviable as anyone that has ever attended a con will attest, there are some people that are a little too socially inept to understand boundaries.

    C) Have smaller demographic based leagues, but still have strong attempts to push female players into the main scene. This I think is the best option as a uniform primary league would be healthiest for each game and the scene overall, but would also allow for more exposure to female players.

    Ahhh esports, what other growing pains do we have to look forward to?

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