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Women in Games launches strategy on improving gender diversity in esports

Encouraging women to participate in the industry is critical for the commercial success of the industry, says advocacy group

Women in Games has this week released a report recommending how the esports industry can foster diversity within the rapidly growing and male-dominated sector.

With the number of women working in esports estimated to be around one in 20, Women in Games noted that one of the main issues is an "awareness gap".

According to YouGov market research from 2017, only 23 per cent of women surveyed were aware of esports, compared to 48 per cent of men.

"In the core 18-24 age group the lack of awareness was 19 per cent of men and 52 per cent of women," said Women in Games. "The 'awareness gap' between genders creates a self-fulfilling prophecy that allows some men in esports to say that women are not interested in esports."

Women in Games has issued a recommendation for women-only tournaments as a short-term solution to the diversity question, with an aim to "inspire, promote the birth of new female teams, create visibility, and provide competitive experience in a safe space".

"A distinct women's esports product is a short term expedient to grow significantly the esports global audience," the organisation adds.

The paper -- drafted in partnership with women in games groups from France, Germany, and Italy -- suggested 12 key areas in order to create gender diversity in esports.

An executive summary of the report, 'Workshop Recommendations on Women in Esports for Intel/ESL and others,' suggested the follwoing:

  1. Women's esports should be seen as a product in its own right and not an add-on or proving-ground for the existing male-dominated industry.
  2. Intel/ESL and other market leaders should be encouraged to make board level appointments and take responsibility for developing women's esports.
  3. Product directors responsible for women's esports should agree targets to decrease the "gender awareness gap" on a country-by-country basis, and be given sufficient resources to achieve the targets.
  4. Data and analytics should be defined and built into tournament software to capture and track gender statistics, and measure progress in all areas like sign-ups and tournament results.
  5. Women's esports product directors should work closely with organisations like Anykey -- a diversity in esports advocacy group -- allowing participation and intervention in daily management activities of leading esports organisations.
  6. The budget of Anykey should be protected.
  7. Increased investment in marketing to reach the non-core audience, promote the successes of women in esports, and demonstrate that esports is for everyone including gender non-binary people.
  8. Significantly increase the number of women-only tournaments and leagues with the aim of growing both audience and player base, providing more opportunities for women staff behind the scenes and in forward facing roles.
  9. Product directors should be asked to lead the search for non-endemic and endemic sponsors.
  10. Organisation of additional tournaments, sponsorship and prize money -- plus discussions with established esports organisations -- with the aim of inspiring and promoting new women's teams.
  11. Direct and co-investment should be considered is schools, universities, and esports academies to promote the birth of new women's teams
  12. Intel/ESL and other market leaders should work with existing women's groups and grassroots organisations to build networks and communities with information and resources for parents, young women and allies to foster the growth of women's esports.

"Many professionals in the esports industry understand that encouraging more women to participate in the industry, both on-stage and behind the scenes, is critical for the commercial success of the industry as well as promoting a socially responsible sector," said Women in Games.

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Ivy Taylor: Ivy joined in 2017 having previously worked as a regional journalist, and a political campaigns manager before that. They are also one of the UK's foremost Sonic the Hedgehog apologists.