One of the world’s most popular esports organizations, FaZe Clan, signed its first female member: Fortnite player Soleil “Ewok” Wheeler, who is 13 and a student at the Indiana School for the Deaf.  

Wheeler, FaZe Clan’s first deaf player, joins an industry criticized for gender bias “toxicity” and lack of female representation, the Associated Press reported this year.

The limited number of female esports players isn’t because of lack of interest. The Entertainment Software Association says 46% of gamers are female, and Nielsen has reported that women make up almost one-fourth of global esports fans. 

Wheeler is one of the few female players who has teamed with Tyler “Ninja” Blevins, one of the most visible esports figures in the U.S. Last year, he caused an uproar after announcing that he would not stream with female players out of respect for his wife, fellow gamer Jessica “Jghosty” Blevins.

  • Women report feeling “marginalized within the community” and say that they are “routinely subject to nasty comments about their ability or appearance,” the AP reported.
  • The highest-paid female player, Sasha “Scarlett” Hostyn, has reportedly earned around $332,000 from professional play, while Kuro “KuroKy” Takhasomi, the highest paid male player, has won over $4.2 million in prize money. 
  • According to Nielsen, in countries where the esports industry is more established, such as China and South Korea, gender parity is more evident. 
  • At Epic Games’ first Fortnite World Cup this past weekend, none of the top 100 finalists were female.
  • Karma Take: As the esports industry continues to gain mainstream popularity, the demand for increased representation, compensation and opportunity for female players and fans is becoming more evident.