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Esports have a gender pay gap problem too

The pay gap between male and female sports has been greatly reduced in recent years, but the issue persists and is as true of eSports as those played on the pitch.

The latest figures show that as much as 83 percent of physical sports now pay men and women the same amount, up from 70 percent just three years ago.

Spectacles like the phenomenal finale to the Women’s Cricket World Cup this week, should prove to spectators that women’s sport can offer the same emotional thrill-ride as the men’s game, and more fans should result in better pay for the stars. The victorious England women’s team are under no illusions as to why their pay is currently less than their male counterparts, but times are changing and quickly.

The internet might be a place where “nobody knows you’re a dog“, but for esports the digital realm definitely still knows whether you are male or female. According to the current eSports rankings, none of the top 100 best-paid players are female, with the top woman earning only two thirds of the 100th place male competitor.

Physical strength is no barrier in the digital world, so men and women compete against each other in the same games in the same leagues. And yet somehow, male gamers still generate significantly more than their female counterparts.

Part of the reason for the lack of female representation in the top 100 is there is a lack of women who compete at top-tier tournaments, according Dominic Sacco, content director for the British Esports Association (BEA).

However, another major factor is the stereotype that still perpetuate the industry – that gamers are young men, and so sponsors are more likely to pay male stars higher sponsorship fees. Currently, eSports fans are reported to be as much as 85% male, but with gamers now just as likely to be women as men, the gender makeup of the eSports’ fanbase is likely to change in the coming years – and advertisers will want to be ahead of the curve.

The total eSports market is currently worth around $750m (£575m), but that is expected to grow to as much as $1.4bn (£1.1bn) by 2020 as viewer numbers explode. Bookmakers around the world have already reacted to the market growth and started to list eSports events alongside more traditional tournaments like the World Cup and Superbowl. ESports are about to explode into the mainstream, so it is about time they took the gender pay gap seriously too.

Photograph by Jakob Wells

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