Experiences & Opportunities for Women in the Gaming Industry” as part of its Park Roundtable series. Three women leaders in the gaming industry spoke with host and moderator senior Mary Turner over Zoom about their experiences and visions for the future of women in esports.
Each speaker works in the gaming space and was chosen by the Park School to share advice and expertise about the climate of the industry for the women who work in it or are a part of it. Each panelist comes from different occupations and applies their individual career skills to their position in gaming.
Entrepraneur Rebecca Dixon is CEO and co-founder of the*GameHERs, a social network and media platform for women who game and work in the gaming industry. The*GameHERS aims to provide women with a toxicity-free environment through its matchmaking and networking app.
Dixon came from the parenting industry, having worked on a platform which connects parents with caregivers. After selling the company, Dixon and her colleagues started noticing many statistics surrounding the experiences of women in gaming. Despite making up almost 50% of all gamers, women face consistent toxicity in the industry and competitive scene.
“There were tons of women in gaming before us, and a bunch of incredible initiatives,” Dixon said. “We felt like what we had been doing with our knowledge of community building and creating a space were unique, so we launched the*GameHERs on the same day the CDC declared COVID-19 a pandemic. Not the worst time to launch a company in the gaming industry.”
Dixon said her personal favorite part of working at the*GameHERs is having the opportunity to collaborate with so many talented and hard-working women. Neither Dixon nor her colleagues come from the gaming industry.
“We had to surround ourselves with smart women who knew different aspects of the industry,” Dixon said. “At the beginning it was like [the social network] Discord.”
Jenn Mancini ’96, one of the invited panelists, has been working in the gaming industry for almost 20 years. For the past 10 years, she’s been working in influencer integrations, developing live-streaming brand executions at Twitch, a live-streaming platform with a focus in gaming. According to Mancini, her work in the gaming industry is more of a passion project for her, stemming from her long experience playing games herself, starting in the late 90s on PC, and eventually graduating to console gaming with the Xbox.
“I think for me, it’s such a fun industry,” Mancini said. “And we stay in it because it’s fun.”
The other panelists agreed that the gaming industry is usually an enjoyable and engaging environment, regardless of how long they’ve been in the industry itself.
Joanie Kraut, one of the invited speakers, is the CEO of Women in Games International (WIGI), a non–profit organization geared toward advancing diversity in the gaming industry and providing more development and management opportunities for women. In 2022, WIGI is running over 90 programs, panels and workshops. Kraut started off in journalism, writing for her college’s newspaper. After deciding journalism wasn’t for her, she went into accounting and analytics. Kraut used skills from both of her previous occupations to lead WIGI and host events.
“My experience from both of those things has helped me navigate WIGI and navigate this industry as a whole,” Kraut said. “I’ve learned how to connect the dots of both analytical data, as well as social data, hearing people’s real stories and understanding what the actual pinpoints are. Once we find those barriers, we can create programs and panels to help people.”
Like Mancini, Kraut was a member of the gaming community before working in the industry. While most would associate working in gaming as playing the games themselves, organizations like WIGI provide opportunities on a larger scale.
“I think one of the biggest things that a lot of colleges are doing is creating Esports teams,” Kraut said. “But they’re creating an opportunity not just to be the performer or the gamer, but there’s also the opportunity to be on the production side, the marketing side and all these other areas.”
Ithaca College is among the many institutions offering Esports programs, with a competitive club as well as an Esports room in Friends Hall.
Dixon said that starting in the gaming industry as a woman is the same as starting in any industry, getting on LinkedIn and working on building strong connections. The three panelists all agree that networking and finding mentors are the most efficient first step of industry involvement, and that the range of jobs in gaming provide plenty of opportunity.
“You know, not everybody who works in the WNBA is playing basketball,” Dixon said. “It’s a huge industry. It’s a great thing to think about.”