Opportunity for Women in Burgeoning Gaming Industry

By Kerry C. Regan, May 10, 2022

Park Roundtable Series.

Half of the 2.7 billion people worldwide who play computer games are women, yet they are extremely under represented in the industry and frequently experience high levels of toxicity. That was more or less the starting point for a webinar discussion on “Women in Gaming: Experiences and Opportunities for Women in the Gaming Industry,” by a panel of leading female gaming executives on April 18, as part of the Park Roundtable Series.  

Indeed two of the panelists lead organizations focused directly on improving the current state of the industry and particularly its female representation. Joanie Kraut is the CEO of Women in Games International (WIGI), a not-for-profit that seeks to advance the global gaming industry’s economic equality and diversity. Rebecca Dixon is a co-founder and CEO of the*gameHERs, a women-led community that seeks to build safe spaces that honor women gamers and gamers of marginalized genders.  

The third panel executive was Jenn Mancini ’96, director of Sales at PlayerWON, which brings full-screen sponsored brand video to free-to-play console and PC games, and a co-founder of Womxn in Gaming NYC. She proposed the webinar’s topic following up on a Park Roundtable webinar she participated in last year on the gaming industry opportunity. She also recruited this year’s panelists in conjunction with Alex Estabrook, instructor, Park School of Communications and advisor to IC’s Esports Club, who coordinated the event, which was hosted and moderated by Mary Turner ’22, IC Esports Club president. 

The Industry is Shifting

So what is the state of women in the gaming industry?  

“The sort of challenges that women face in gaming are broad and very present still, but a lot of progress has been made and that is wonderful,” said Dixon.  For example, when she entered the industry in 2019 by co-founding gameHERs, she was warned that industry veterans would dismiss her as a neophyte, but that wasn’t evident, she said.  

“For the most part, the people that I talk to are pretty aware of the situation and are really looking for tangible solutions.” she said.  

Mancini noted a recent shift in the industry.  

“Ten years ago, you’re usually one in a sea of dudes, and what I love so much is that the script is definitely flipping since COVID,” she said. “We’re still only 10 percent female on my team,” a shortcoming she blames in part on a lack of awareness of the opportunity, “which is why we’re here today.”  

That lack of awareness is not just for esports—“you mean people watch other people play games?”—and games in general, but the industry’s infrastructure.  

“The opportunity in esports is not just to be the professional esports player,” Kraut said. “There’s the production side, the marketing side, creating the budget, getting the partnerships, designing the jerseys…. There's just so many ways into the esports industry.”  

Or as Dixon put it: “Not everybody who works at the WNBA plays basketball.” 

Furthermore, many colleges and universities also aren’t understanding how the skillsets they are teaching translate to the gaming industry, according to Mancini. “There is a gap in education and knowledge and experience in how to orchestrate” a gaming curriculum that can prepare someone for a career.  

Perhaps that’s to be expected of a dynamic industry still in its formative stages.  

“We're the first generation of workers that are coming into this with a really good sense and understanding of the industry,” Turner noted.   

The Path Forward

Certainly the panelists didn’t follow conventional career paths. Mancini has degrees in theatre and political science, was accepted to law school but didn’t attend and previously worked in other advertising positions and as a backup singer for Ray Davies of the Kinks. Dixon majored in math and vocal performance and co-founded a parenting company, Mommybites, before starting gameHERs. Kraut began her career in journalism, then shifted to accounting, finance and data analytics before landing at WIGI.  

What they all have in common is that they’ve played games for years— two of the three panelists cited “World of Warcraft” as their all-time favorite go-to game—and each enjoys working in what they call a fun industry.  

“It feels like we're working in the gaming industry at a time when it’s growing and changing in a really positive way,” Dixon said. “Gaming intersects with so many other industries, and it offers so many potential jobs for young people coming out of school.” 

Their advice for women seeking careers in gaming and esports was nowhere near as exotic as their own career paths. Find a mentor—or several mentors to help with different skills. Find a coach to show you how to do things, a sponsor to tell others how you did it. Network. Reach out to professionals on LinkedIn. Work at being your real, authentic self, in interviews and at work.  

Watch

Women in Gaming: Experiences and Opportunities for Women in the Gaming Industry.