The esports industry is booming, and it's seeking female applicants

Studies show that women comprise 30 percent of esports viewership and 35 percent of esport gamers. These numbers are growing each year.
Participants at the  For The Women Gaming summit in Philadelphia on Feb. 13
Participants at the For The Women Gaming summit in Philadelphia on Feb. 13Know Your Value

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By Halley Bondy

The video game industry is male-dominated, but esports companies are banding together to recognize female gamers and revolutionize the industry.

Earlier this month, more than 250 guests attended the For The Women Gaming summit in Philadelphia, which was hosted by Spectacor Gaming and Nerd Street Gamers. Participants played games and checked out new products in esports, which are wildly popular organized gaming competitions. Panelists also discussed their professional journeys into esports, personal experiences in their roles and how they are working to create an industry that encourages women to pursue careers in gaming.

The industry is booming. In fact, esports was a $1 billion industry in 2019, and executives at the conference agreed that inclusivity toward women will be the key to its continued success.

A 2019 study from data firm Interpret found that women comprise 30 percent of esports viewership and 35 percent of esport gamers, and that these numbers are growing each year.

Know Your Value interviewed several executives at the summit, including Joe Marsh, CEO of T1 Entertainment and Sports.

“You can have a mixed-gender [esports] team, and that’s the only professional sport in the world where that can be done,” said Marsh at the event, which took place at the Comcast Technology Center. “There are a lot of women who game and they’re really, really good...They’re going to make the space better.”

At the For The Women gaming summit in Philadelphia on Feb. 13, from left to right: Danielle Cohn, VP Start-Up Engagement, LIFT Labs; Jessica Romanelli David, Director of Marketing, SeventySix Capital; Paige Funk, Marketing Director, Nerd Street Gamers; Heather Garozzo, VP of Marketing, Dignitas; Julie Truong, Director of Business Operations, Philadelphia Fusion.Know Your Value

The most popular esport competitions feature professional gamers and teams battling in live tournaments through multiplayer online video games, such as “League of Legends” or “World of Warcraft.” Viewers of these competitions have increased year over year, reaching 380 million in 2018, according to Influencer Marketing Hub. Gaming analysis firm Newzoo predicts that by 2021, viewership will reach 557 million.

Women are often victims of harassment or discrimination in gaming, which can deter them from playing esports, let alone seeking out a job in the booming industry, according to attendees. Multiplayer gamers might reveal their gender over chats or microphones when they talk to other players, for example, leading to toxic interactions.

From left to right, at the For The Women gaming summit in Philadelphia on Feb. 13: Master Sgt. Rose Ryon, Sgt. Nicole Ortiz, Sgt. 1st Class Megan Lomonof.Know Your Value

“Growing up when I was playing video games, I would get harassed over the mic,” said Julie Truong, director of business operations at Philadelphia Fusion, a professional esports organization. “I would have to mute my mic until I proved myself first.”

However, For the Women attendees maintained that the esports industry is changing the game.

“Different organizations are trying to bring in more female competitors, more female leadership,” said Paige Funk, director of marketing at Nerd Street Gamers. Funk defined For the Women as an ongoing “resource group” for women in gaming.

Other supportive organizations have cropped up in the past decade for women gamers including Global Gaming Women and Women in Games.

“You can be any gender, any height, any background and you can participate in esports,” said Danielle Cohn, executive director of the tech accelerator program LIFT Labs at Comcast. “If you want to build games, play games, promote games, this is a business, you can have a job in it, you can have a great job in it, and you can have a lot of fun along the way.”

Still, there is a long way to go. Eliminating discrimination and fostering an inclusive environment will take an industry-wide effort, according to Tucker Roberts, president of Spectacor Gaming and Philadelphia Fusion.

“If you’re in a game, and you hear [bullying], and you don’t say something to shut it down, then you are culpable,” said Roberts. “Esports has the potential to be coed, and that’s what we should be striving for.”