Women Being Shut Out of College and University Varsity Programs in Esports

A new study from North Carolina State University reports that the rapidly growing field of collegiate esports is effectively becoming a two-tiered system, with club-level programs that are often supportive of gender diversity being clearly distinct from well-funded varsity programs that are dominated by men.

“Five years ago, we thought collegiate esports might be an opportunity to create a welcoming, diverse competitive arena, which was a big deal given how male-dominated the professional esports scene was,” says Nick Taylor, co-author of the study and an associate professor of communication at North Carolina State University. “Rapid growth of collegiate esports over the past five years has led to it becoming more professional, with many universities having paid esports positions, recruiting players, and so on. We wanted to see how that professionalization has affected collegiate esports and what that means for gender diversity. The findings did not give us reason to be optimistic.”

“Essentially, we found that women are effectively pushed out of esports at many colleges when they start investing financial resources in esports programs,” says Bryce Stout, co-author of the study and a Ph.D. student at North Carolina State. “We thought collegiate esports might help to address the disenfranchisement of women in esports and in gaming more generally; instead, it seems to simply be an extension of that disenfranchisement.”

“Higher education has been spending increasing amounts of time, money, and effort on professionalizing esports programs,” Dr. Taylor added. “With some key exceptions, these institutions are clearly not putting as much effort into encouraging diversity in these programs. That effectively cuts out women and minorities.”

The full study, “Gender and the Two-Tiered System of Collegiate Esports,” was published on the website of the journal Critical Studies in Media Communication. It may be accessed here.

Filed Under: Research/Study


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