SimBin, creators of critically acclaimed race games, today announced Women and Wheels – the first women-only Esports car racing competition – at the annual European Women in Games Conference in London. Launching this autumn, the competition aims to provide a supportive, female-friendly environment that encourages more women to play Esports while drawing attention to the often hidden role of women in racing and automotive history. A percentage of revenue will be donated to female-focused charities.
SimBin Studio Head, Allan Speed, said: “We’re thrilled to announce Women and Wheels. As a developer, we’re acutely aware of the low female participation in Esports. Around 7% of our race competitors are female. Unbelievably, that’s probably over average. We want to see more women enjoying the thrills and spills of the virtual track, and Esports in general. At SimBin we’ve achieved 50/50 gender balance in our studio workforce, so we thought we’d try to encourage more women to compete in our competitions too. We spoke to Marie-Claire Isaaman (CEO, Women in Games) and Dr. Jo Twist (CEO, Ukie), who both thought it was a great idea. Then we got positive feedback from some well-known car manufacturers and a host of great sponsors and advocates got on board. Everyone could see that Women and Wheels is all about doing good while feeling good. It’s got high-octane racing fun, it’s building a supportive environment for women to develop their racing skills and confidence, and it’s donating to charity too. It’s a real game changer.”
Esports is one of the fastest growing areas of entertainment, predicted to be worth over $1.5 Billion by 2020. It’s a sport where women can compete on an equal playing field with men but currently Esports has numerous gender equality and participation challenges. Approximately 50% of video game players are now female but that number drops dramatically to 15% for Esports viewers and only 5% for Esports players. Professional Esports has major earnings gaps between men and women, plus misogyny and online bullying are considerable problems.
While none of these issues is unique to Esports, many women players, along with some men, are trying to combat inequality and discrimination by promoting either gender balanced or women-only teams, leagues and competitions. Women-only tournaments such as the Intel Challenge Katowice give women a chance to demonstrate Esports prowess on a major stage – but at grassroots level women-only teams and leagues can provide a supportive environment where women can improve skills and confidence without fear of abuse. For many female players, the hope is these initiatives will eventually lead to equal participation and competition with men.
“Women and Wheels is a fantastic initiative”, said Marie-Claire Isaaman, CEO of advocacy group Women in Games. “It’s a shame we need women-only teams, leagues and competitions in Esports but until the sector fully matures, becomes more gender balanced and takes steps to eradicate online bullying and misogyny, they represent a great way to get more women involved by building communities, confidence and skills. It’s not true that women aren’t competitive, or that they don’t like cars. The CEO of General Motors is currently a women, and the founder of Autoweek, Denise McCluggage, used to race Ferraris! Esports has great potential to level the playing field for women in competitive sport, and I think Women in Wheels is progressive step towards achieving that.”
Mathias Lauda, Racing Driver for Aston Martin in the FIA World Endurance Championship, added: “I am delighted to be an advocate for Women and Wheels, it’s a fantastic and much needed innovation. As a professional racing driver, I’m all for getting more women into both Esports and motorsports. The Woman and Wheels competition is a great way of encouraging females into a traditionally male dominated space”.
About Women and Wheels:
Women and Wheels is a time-limited online car racing Esports competition for women only. The competition is due to be launched Fall 2017 and will be available on Steam. There are prizes for competition winners, including a €3,000 Racing Simulator Chair, 2 Fanatec Racing Wheel and Pedal Sets, a life coaching programme from Epiphany Junkie, and more.