Esports is an industry that is open to a very limited number of women. They face sexism from male colleagues and huge wage differentials. Two of the most successful female gamers told the BBC how they deal with discrimination and serve as role models for other women in the profession.
This week, London will host the esports awards ceremony nominating the best players in the industry. There is not a single woman among them.
Esports – competition among gamers – is an area that is growing at an incredible pace. According to the consulting company Deloitte, in 2016 the volume of the industry’s profit will grow by 25% and amount to about $ 500 million. And the global audience will reach 150 million people.
Unlike traditional sports, athletes’ physical characteristics play no role in eSports. However, the overwhelming majority of the most popular games are male.
An equal number of men and women play video games, but twice as many men identify themselves as “gamers,” according to a recent poll by the Pew Center. That is, once online play becomes a competition, the number of female players decreases significantly.
Special project “100 women”
As part of the Air Force’s annual special project “100 Women”, we talk about the lives of women in the 21st century in different countries: about the challenges they face every day and the opportunities they face.
Over the next three weeks, we will share inspiring examples of women who have become leaders in sports, music, politics and other areas of life, as well as lead discussions about feminism and other issues.
Steph Harvey is one of the most successful female gamers in the world. In her opinion, only 5% of professional gamblers are women, and the stereotype that exists in society associated with online games is to blame for this.
“This is a ‘men’s club’, so a woman in this world immediately falls into the category of ‘others,’ she explains.
Sexism reigned in the gaming community for many years – it came to harassing playing women. Steph says she was even threatened with rape.
“They described (online – Ed.) What they would do to my body, that I have no right to play because I use my sexuality – and all this in great detail,” she shares.
Steph admits that she often has dark thoughts about work.
“Often I think – why am I doing this if other members of the gaming community hate me? Because I am a feminist, and I believe that women have a place in esports,” she says.