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Smash the glass ceiling for women in gaming and esports

We need more women in this burgeoning multi-million dollar industry

Women gamers Unsplash/Andre Hunter
More women in leadership roles will make a huge difference to the gaming esports sector

Gaming and esports have become a multibillion-dollar industry, with investment opportunities, new career paths and innovation popping up around every corner. So, where do women fit in? 

For a bit of context, the Middle East and North Africa region is the fastest-growing gaming market in the world, with an industry forecast to be worth $5 billion by 2025.

Currently, the sector is valued at $1.78 billion and estimates for the number of gamers in the region hover around the 375 million mark.

The industry’s growth will be fuelled by increased expenditure from existing gamers, surging advertisement revenue, localisation of gaming content and the rise of Web3, according to a report by consultancy RedSeer. 

Every skill set and background imaginable of both women and men can be put to use in this burgeoning sector.

Listening to a panel hosted by Women in Games, I was struck by how the parity issues spoken about mirrored what I experienced in the corporate world, including gender discrimination, bullying and harassment.

While much work still needs to be done in all sectors of society, it’s important to share some prescriptive thoughts on what specifically can be done in the gaming and esports world. 

Advance women to director level

Female gamers are on the rise. Having women at the top will provide valuable insights into the rich complexity of the female gaming population, the same reasoning I use when advocating for more funding to go to female startup founders.

Women control the vast majority of household spending decisions. Female founders intuitively know how to tap into that decision matrix.

While the gaming industry is making some progress in terms of attracting more women into a career in this sector, it is still lacking in terms of women taking director or C-Suite level positions. 

The more women there are at the top, the greater chance there is that they will extend a hand to upcoming talent.

But first there needs to be a pipeline of qualified women. It all starts with the first rung of the ladder.

Begin by looking at your recent hiring history and start setting targets.

Mentoring programmes

Start young. Mentoring should start at an early age. Girls need role models. Schools can help.

When girls see people who look like them and have access to those with shared aspirations, they engage better with their learning and build wider networks.

Educators can foster initiatives that connect students with women and mentors in gaming.

There are many virtual edtech tools, and mentors can be found throughout the world.

Amy Allison, who writes about Girl Scouts and gaming, helped introduce the concept of a ‘gaming’ patch.

The patch is awarded to Girl Scout members who learn how to design video games. It also requires them to programme the games, rather than just design them.

Success stories

The contributing authors to my book, Changing the Game, have been tapped for their insights, but I had another ulterior motive.

They are also there as examples of individuals from all types of backgrounds who have entered esports/gaming and are thriving in what they do.

Among them are a dozen women who have a story to tell. Having a spotlight shone on a specific individual or company does more than provide good PR. It may spark an idea for a new career or business opportunity. 

Perhaps an investor now has you on their radar for the future. Say ‘yes’ to public speaking. Say ‘yes’ to being interviewed by the media. Say ‘yes’ to writing an op-ed piece. 

Male champions of women

Men can play a critical role in bringing more women into the gaming/esports arena.

Men should step up to change the status quo with proactive business practices that prioritise women’s career paths and set them up to thrive in tech. Men should also be mentoring the next generation of female talent. 

One area is sponsorship. If you are a senior team member, you can seek out opportunities for women and advocate for them.

Highlight their qualifications and why, specifically, they’re a fit for an opportunity. This will help women climb the corporate ladder.

More women in leadership in gaming will make a huge difference in attracting and retaining women in the industry.

The goal should be ensuring that studios and other companies in games become more welcoming and attractive places.

These are the workplaces of the future, not the past.

Lucy Chow is secretary general of the Dubai-based World Business Angels Investment Forum and general partner of the WBAF Angel Investment Fund. This column was extracted from her recently published book Changing the Game