The Women Changing the Game in Esports
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The Time is now
Women’s sport has never been more popular, with the UEFA Women’s EURO 2022 smashing the record for attendances… mid-way through the group stage.
Sports and gaming are now beginning to dovetail in their relationship, especially when you see the prize pools for some of the biggest esports tournaments on the planet.
The first Fortnite World Cup had a total prize pool of $30 million, just showcasing how serious this space now is in the entertainment industry.
There is a perception that female participation in the gaming sector is perhaps behind the curve – but times are changing.
The announcement of Sam Kerr becoming the first ever female footballer to grace the global cover of the FIFA series for EA SPORTS’ FIFA 23 is a significant step in the right direction.
EA has also announced that two women’s football divisions – England’s Women’s Super League and France’s Division 1 Feminine – will join the game for the very first time.
Some may see this as a token gesture – but as the saying goes you can’t be what you can’t see, and this will not only “normalise” women’s sports in society (as is being seen at UEFA Women’s EURO 2022) but also inspire young women and girls to sit where Sam Kerr and her contemporaries are.
Many women are already making waves in the gaming sector – and we’ve been fortunate enough at SPORTFIVE to speak to them.
Learning from the best
Lagen Nash, Chief Revenue Officer at Misfits Gaming, made the transition from the entertainment & media world into gaming three years ago “to learn about a new industry that was on the rise and constantly innovating”.
“The highlights of my career have been the people and teams I have worked with. I have been blessed to work and learn from some of the best in the industry.
“I always say the day when we don’t have to answer questions regarding women’s involvement in the space, is when we’ve solved the problem. Companies need to continue to create and promote female empowerment. The more companies continue to do so, the more change we will see.
“At all the companies I have worked, I have helped create groups that promote women and offer resources and programs to help their careers. This is something I am deeply passionate about and continue to focus on and make a priority.
“For women looking to break into the industry, I would say look for companies that check all the boxes you are looking for… be picky!”
Bring a fresh perspective
Paige Bonomi, Global Partnership Sales Manager at Team Liquid has managed to merge her passion for sports with her interests in gaming.
“I began my career in the tech and digital media space and was lucky enough to be introduced to esports early on. While I always loved gaming and entertainment, I was also a college athlete, so it’s a perfect intersection of passions of mine. My first-ever esports event was at Oakland Arena in California – the atmosphere, crowd, gameplay and production blew me away and I was immediately hooked.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to have worked across a variety of verticals within esports and gaming – tackling roles across sales and business development, partnership management, product marketing and communications. I’ve also learned the businesses of different key stakeholders – tournament organizer, team and agency – which has provided a holistic understanding for the ecosystem. The medley of experience has proven to be invaluable.
"Do not let the idea of an industry being historically male-dominated scare you away! I’ve noticed that some women hesitant about this space are daunted by a stereotype."
Paige Bonomi, Global Partnership Sales Manager at Team Liquid
“It’s no secret that esports & gaming is a male-dominated industry but there has certainly been a shift in these numbers. Whether it be companies prioritizing DE&I initiatives, organizations creating safe spaces, leagues and communities being built or catering to women playing and competing, women from this world entering leadership positions, or women leaders breaking into the space from the likes of traditional sports, entertainment and media; change is happening.
“With that being said, we need to keep pushing the envelope with no slow-down.
“Do not let the idea of an industry being historically male-dominated scare you away! I’ve noticed that some women hesitant about this space are daunted by a stereotype.
“The industry is growing more and more every day and it should be viewed as an opportunity to bring a new, fresh perspective, enabling its growth further. And then once you’re here, speak up and share your point of view – challenge a different perspective. You’re in great company of those that want to foster diversification and change, both men and women alike.
Leonie Fabisch, Project Lead Gaming at SPORTFIVE also came from a traditional sports background, but wanted to shake up her experiences.
“I didn’t have a gaming background when joining the SPORTFIVE esports and gaming unit. I have been working in traditional sports for several years. But the more I worked with the big football clubs, the more I realised that I want to be more experimental and eager to break down barriers of “it has been like this for 10 years, and that’s just the way it is”.
“I watched the development within SPORTFIVE in regards of our growing esports and gaming unit. It felt like kind of the exact “adventure” I was unconsciously looking for.
“My most positive experience was the way I was welcomed in the gaming scene. Everyone was curious and open towards my move and gave me the feeling that I was in the right place at the right time.
“The last 18 months been the most exciting and positively challenging in my entire career. The highlight now will most certainly be the upcoming esports and gaming events – finally meeting all the great people of the scene in person!
“We need more female role models in leading positions in the scene. It’s just a natural effect, people get attracted to a working environment when they don’t feel they are the minority and feel like they are given the chance to succeed.
“From my point of view, we need to help young female professionals with any fear of stepping into the gaming space, especially if they are not gamers themselves. From my own experience, the gaming scene and industry, is just like any other sector, and it needs people from different working backgrounds and professional experiences. Otherwise, all upcoming challenges for this fast-growing space will be looked at by a common and similar point of view – to come up with new ideas, it needs diversity on several levels.
“I encourage young women to be bold! There is still so much to explore and also develop in this industry. Everyone fits in and can contribute to its fast-developing structures. To create long-lasting and sustainable success in the industry we need women who are eager to help shape to whole space of gaming. Also, spread the word, talk about your experiences and pave the way for more women.”
Bruna Soares, Director of Global Brand Partnerships at Ubisoft has been in the gaming space for over a decade now.
“I started working in the sector as part of a large PR agency’s PlayStation communications team.
“Over the course of two years, I became a marketing and trade analyst at NC Games, at the time the largest game distributor in Latin America. I arrived at Ubisoft in 2013, where I started my career as a marketing and events manager, then became a strategic and events director of business development and strategic partnerships in Latin America; and then at the end of last year, became global director of partnerships.
“Working with games was something unexpected and, at the same time, natural in my career. Despite never planning to work in this industry, I quickly fell in love with the space.
"Do not be afraid. It’s a market with unique and inspiring people. Be in touch with other women who can contribute to your journey; when one grows up, they all grow together."
Bruna Soares, Director of Global Brand Partnerships at Ubisoft
“I always think that as women, we have to prove ourselves much more as professionals than men. I’ve continued to develop my career, focusing on respect between partners and also my colleagues. Every new brand developing a project with one of Ubisoft’s games is a highlight, without a doubt. Each project is a micro-universe.
“For me, the most important thing is to put women and men in the same order of magnitude. Regardless of gender, consider people as they are, for their professional skills, abilities, qualities, and defects, which we all have. The best way to increase the participation of women is to give them the same opportunities without any judgment, which is still a challenge in certain industries.
“Undoubtedly, there is still a lot of mistrust and many questions about the role of women in the job market, and I don’t believe it’s something exclusive to the games industry. This is mainly about women occupying positions of more significant influence. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon – and not easy – to go through situations where you need to prove to others why you occupy a certain position, even when you know how hard you fought and prepared to be there.
“Gradually, society understands the role of women in the labour market, but there is undoubtedly still a long way to go before we reach gender equity. It remains to be a cause not only for women but also for men. It is a collective process in which society must be mobilized. This is not a cause not only of the games industry but of each of us as an individual living in community.
“Do not be afraid. It’s a market with unique and inspiring people. Be in touch with other women who can contribute to your journey; when one grows up, they all grow together.”