Formula 1 announced an exclusive way for women to qualify for the F1 Esports Pro Exhibition. Here’s why this is an important step but also long overdue.
Photo credit: IMAGO / Shutterstock
A crucial step has been made promoting equality in the esports racing scene. From 3 to 9 May, women will get the chance to set a lap time on F1 2020, allowing the fastest to qualify for the F1 Esports Pro Exhibition. There, the winner will face their male contestants in several assessments and get the chance to be picked by one of the ten F1 Esports teams.
While esports in general offers the charming possibility of men and women competing on the same level regardless of their gender, top-level esports events are still mostly male-dominated. Some professional leagues have featured women at the highest level, such as Se-yeon “Geguri” Kim in Overwatch or Sasha “scarlett” Hostyn, but they are more an exception than the rule.
Systematic disadvantages hold women back
While it is true that there are no differences when it comes to ability, there are systematic disadvantages for female racers. It starts at the lowest level in online games, where women sometimes get harassed simply because of their gender. This is a particular issue in games with voice chat. Men also experience harassment in online games but it’s rarely due to their gender. In online competitions, women get second guessed just like the community did with at the beginning of her career. Nobody cares about the guy that finishes in 10th place. But if a woman finishes in 8th, everyone talks about her and her ‘poor’ performance.
Then there’s the professional aspect: esports teams have openly stated they are afraid of the backlash when adding a woman to their roster. There’s also the problem of team houses that are very common in both esports and sim racing. Teams are often hesitant to have women living with them in such a small space. Additionally, it might also be uncomfortable for a woman to live amongst 10 men.
Equal opportunities need to be created
So while it looks like women and men have equal chances to be successful, they don’t. All issues stated above lead to the fact that women constantly have to face an invisible wall they need to break through – and very few have the energy to do so. This is why there are so few women in sim racing and esports in general. Those systematic disadvantages need to be changed and a great way is to create an environment for women to prove themselves without constantly facing the backlash they often do.
Visibility creates empowerment
There hasn’t been a single woman competitor in the F1 Esports Series. However, visibility is important. Several studies show that visibility helps to increase diversity. To make this more tangible: having a woman as part of the F1 Esports Pro Exhibition shows other women that this is something they can reach, too. It highlights an opportunity they might not have known they had. It helps to normalise women in sim racing.
Why the Wildcard is great
The Women’s Wildcard is such a great opportunity, because it combines all issues stated above and tries to dismantle them: It creates visibility without gifting something to anyone. The winner of the Women’s Wildcard will be part of the F1 Esports Pro Exhibition, but so are several others. So being part of the Pro Exhibition does not guarantee selection by an F1 team. Additionally, the Women’s Wildcard helps to navigate through the jungle of disadvantages women face in online gaming to create equal opportunities. This is why the concept is absolutely great and people on Twitter who would never qualify for the F1 Esports Series need to stop complaining about something being taken away from them that does not have the slightest impact on their life. Instead, they should get excited about the sim racing scene slowly becoming an even more inclusive space.
What do you think about the Women’s Wildcard? Tell us on Twitter at @OverTake_gg or in the comments down below!