Gender Equity

New Report Pushes for Greater Diversity in Esports

As more colleges and universities add esports to their formal athletics programs, they'll eventually need to grapple with Title IX implications. This longtime law prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any federally funded education program or activity. Yet esports in and out of schools has traditionally placed numerous barriers to full and equal female participation. As a new paper from AnyKey pointed out, harassment and sexism is rife among gamers; discrimination can force women and girls "to have to jump through more hoops" than the men and boys to participate in gaming events; and female players can feel socially isolated in spite of their huge numbers in the general population (nearly half of women 18 to 29 years old say they often or sometimes play video games).

AnyKey, which advocates for inclusion in gaming across sex, gender, color, sexual orientation, age and ability, urged campuses to put policies and practices in place as proactive measures before they face Title IX litigation.

The report offered 12 recommendations, among them:

  • Providing a code of conduct and enforcing it. The nonprofit offers its own version of that and encouraged organizations to make whatever code they adopt "visible" and to offer "a mechanism for reporting and enforcement."

  • Setting up programs that cater to a "range of skill levels, forms and settings." Doing so will help teams "cultivate talent earlier" and help more people learn the basics of games "in a supportive, low-risk environment."

  • Encouraging co-ed play, which can serve as a "powerful level to disrupt stereotypes for those who may not get regular engagement with those unlike them in a gaming situation."

  • Offering "meaningful diverse representation in media broadcasts." For example, visual materials could reflect diverse participation. And on-camera talent should include women and other non-traditional students as analysts, hosts, interviewers and play-by-play game casters.

AnyKey also strongly advised schools to consider hosting women-only tournaments. "Gender segregated tournaments can be a powerful tool in supporting [female] participation," the report stated. "They offer competition opportunities that might not otherwise be available given current structural and cultural barriers or costs in terms of harassment. They can provide an aspirational path for players who want more competitive settings but also need stepping stones to moving into a co-ed space." On top of that, the authors suggested, these events "also offer terrific opportunities to highlight role models."

The full 23-page report is openly available on the AnyKey website.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.