Gender equality is a growing movement around the world, aiming to bring both men and women together on equal terms in everything from employment to roles in general society. Despite massive support for equality, inequality still exists. In the world of ESPORTS (electronic competitions involving video games and simulators), this is truer than anywhere else.
Some figures indicate that there is a pay gap over 700% when comparing female ESPORTS winners to their male counterparts. The highest paid winner in ESPORTS, Sasha “Scarlett” Hostyn, is one of the best female players in the popular strategy game Starcraft 2. With winnings of over $197,000, she is significantly below the highest paid male player, who has combined winnings of over $3 million from DOTA2 competitions. Hostyn is 346th on the worldwide list of top earners, despite being at the top of her game and the highest paid woman in ESPORTS.
What Causes the Gender Pay Gap in ESPORTS?
The comparison we’ve made is not a purely scientific one. Sasha Hostyn plays a game that is far less popular in 2018 when compared with DOTA2, one of the most watched games in ESPORTS. However, the gap is still astronomical and is not proportionate to the difference in popularity of the two games.
There’s a misconception that female ESPORTS players earn less because there are fewer of their gender. That’s simply not true, as female ESPORTS players represent between 40 and 48 percent of all players in any given year.
There’s another argument that females are simply not as good. With Hostyn clearly being one of the best in her chosen game, that’s an incorrect argument that should not even be on the table. It can’t be supported by evidence, and it has been demonstrated to be untrue. Hostyn has a higher level of skill and a wider skillset than Jang Min-Chul, the highest male earner in Starcraft II. He has earned more than $500,000 in his ESPORTS career.
Women in other popular games like CS:GO (Counter Strike Global Offensive) regularly perform as well in competitions as males, yet they are earning less than their counterparts.
Does Misogyny Exist in ESPORTS?
It’s easy to identify a level of Misogyny in ESPORTS when looking at chatlogs, evidence from online live streams, and even from competitive gaming videos posted online. This is something that is being addressed by the major competitions, but it still exists, especially in non-sanctioned casual events.
This could be rooted out by creating separate female competitions, but that only works against the idea of equality. When women can compete at the same level, why should two separate competitions exist? ESPORTS could become a bastion of complete equality in competitive sports, so segmenting the competitions would be counterproductive.
There have been examples where events under the same league were created for both male and female teams. In one of these, the Copenhagen Games, the prize pool for the main male event was $100,000. The women’s event had to settle for a prize pool of $25,000. That’s a massive difference and incredibly difficult to explain.
What are Possible Solutions for Removing Barriers to Female Competition?
One of the first things is to eliminate segregated competitions. There are no biological gender obstacles in ESPORTS, so players should be in the same divisions in the exact same competitions. This would increase the prize pool for all and would make for a more dynamic and engaging showpiece.
Discriminatory hate speech, and predatory or gender-based negative remarks must be removed from ESPORTS completely. Sanctioned events need strict rules to punish and remove competitors who do not comply.
The separation of genders in ESPORTS is discrimination. Removing this practice would reset the boards and allow fair competition. Organizers that create safe competitions would attract better and more valuable sponsorship, and ESPORTS will become an increasingly diverse activity where there is equal opportunity for all.