Where Are All The Women In Esports?
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Two years ago the University of Utah started a coed varsity esports program, but something was missing – coeds.
“To date we have a coed sport with no girls on it,” esports director A.J. Dimick said a few weeks ago.
According to one survey, 46 percent of people who play video games are female. In competitive play however, the numbers are far smaller. Some professional leagues have no female players at all.
Evelyn Le, who coaches the University of Utah’s Overwatch team, agrees with the general consensus that the problem is on the virtual playing field. The world used to describe it – toxicity.
“No matter what age I was, you are hit with derogatory female terms, or like discouraged to play the game, because you’re just on the basis that you’re a female,” she says.
“There may be uncomfortable sexual passes that you’ll encounter in a game,” she says. “No matter what age I was, you were constantly hit on.”
Recently Utah’s coed program became coed, when the university got its first female player – Jenessa Fenochietti, a computer grad student and Hearthstone player who streams on Twitch in her spare time.
“I didn’t think much of it. I just wanted to get involved,” she said. Only after she made the team did she find out it came with a small scholarship and the honor of being the first woman player in the program.
“Now usually when you have really good players, you know who they are, you know they’re here.” Dimick says. “But she surprised us and was one that one that we didn’t know was on our campus.”
One female player, though, is hardly enough for Dimick and others who think esports belongs under the NCAA. That would bring Title IX — federal rules against gender discrimination — into play.
“Title 9 concerns that it would go into the tabulation of male to female scholarships for all the sports,” he says. “To most people that is an obstacle to overcome. In my point of view, it’s an opportunity.”
For now, until online games are equally welcoming to both sexes, Le hides her gender when she plays games with strangers.
“If I’m not playing with friends, I typically don’t talk ever in the game to my teammates,’ she says.
“You have to push through the harassment and prove yourself to be better,” Le says.