Female representation in esports (the discipline, not the person) has been a bit of a hot topic in recent weeks, due in part to ESL’s creation of an all-female CSGO league, and some fairly spicy responses from some sections of the traditional talent pool. With 2021 in the books, we thought it would be interesting to look at a few games, and compare exactly how much was won by male and female players, with a little help from the amazing folks at Liquipedia, who have compiled some numbers, starting today with the world of Rainbow Six Siege.
For those who don’t follow the game, Siege is a tactical, objective-based 5v5 shooter made by Ubisoft, with an extremely diverse range of characters making up the cast. Like CSGO, there are fraggers, support players and IGLs, and allows for a range of different skill sets. It’s even a game that has seen female representation in the ‘main’ or male part of the esport in the past, which suggests Siege is ahead of the pack when it comes to breaking down gender barriers.
Brazil is best for Rainbow Six Siege pros
Thanks to @LiquipediaR6 on Twitter, we can look into the current situation when it comes to segregated Siege, and how female players are earning in comparison to their male counterparts. The numbers are even broken down by region too, which allows us to look at not just how male players do by comparison, but which region is currently the best if you are a female Rainbow Six Siege player.
The first thing to point out is that right now, Brazil is dominating the male side of the game, and the same appears to be true for female pros. The top Brazilian lineup took home 10 times what the top NA side managed in winning over the course of 2021, with $20K earnings for the Black Dragons side, compared to the GuGuDolls $2K won over the course of 12 months.
When it comes to EU and APAC, it’s fair to say they are far closer to NA than SA, with the Delta Project taking home $2,300 in Europe and APAC’s NotConfirm having won $3.1K in the same time period. However, as anyone who follows Siege, or even esports knows, these numbers are incredibly low compared to male-dominated games, where a single player can bank more in a month’s salary than the Black Dragons won in their entire year of play.
By comparison, the top male South American team took home just over $1.1M in 2021, and between the top three earners in the male game, all of whom are from SA, there was around $2M of the total $10.9M claimed. Amazingly the fourth highest-earning side was Saudi’s Al Fateh, who took home $341K in prize money over the course of 2021, while probably not making many headlines outside of their region.
Does prize money matter?
It should be recognized that there are other ways players get paid, from salary to sponsorship deals with brands and even public appearances, so these figures only really represent the sum won in competition. To get a better idea of how this works for Siege, and the importance of prize money, we sat down for a chat with Siege.gg journalist Hunter Cooke, and asked him where female players in Rainbow Six currently stand, at least in his point of view.
“As far as women in the scene, to my knowledge, Rainbow Six has a rich history of advancing women,” Hunter told us. “Goddess had an excellent Pro League run and is still invested in the scene. Marmalade has been noted as a top NA Challenger League player this year, and that's just North America. Teams like Delta Project are also investing heavily into women's leagues in Europe, TOs like CCS and Project Eris have made great efforts to be inclusive and foster a safe place for women to blossom competitively, even if sometimes they fall short.”
When asked about the huge disparity in prize money, he was quick to point out that Siege, like many esports, has a slightly wonky distribution in that area overall.
“Prize pools in Siege are very inconsistent. Take, for example, the Sweden Major: FaZe Clan won $200,000 for winning the event, NiP $80,000 for placing second. On the other hand, CYCLOPS Athlete Gaming won the Japan League, and the equivalent of around $130,000, significantly more than the finalist of a Major. As a general note, the prize pools in Rainbow Six do not make sense when prestige is factored in.”’
In fact, from Hunter’s point of view, the prize pool comparison only tells half the story, with Siege ahead of the pack when it comes to esports removing barriers for women to go pro. “I don't think the lack of a significant prize pool means that Siege struggles in advancing women — in context, it's been one of the more progressive esports — but there's always work to be done. Women face challenges unique to their gender, and that isn't changing without a complete societal overhaul over generations.”
“I don't think prize pools are that large of a factor in women's representation in the esport due to their sheer inconsistency throughout Rainbow Six and the investment from other aspects of the scene,” he went on. “I'm not saying that women have it great in Rainbow Six, this scene suffers from sexism the same as everywhere else in the world, but there's a visible effort from key players in the scene to advance women, and it's not visible from a look at prize pools.”
Even with that in mind, it’s fair to say the gap in earnings for Siege is currently a chasm, and this is one of the games with a better record when it comes to competitive equity. With Siege’s main events having significant, often million-dollar-plus prize pools, it must be depressing as a female player to know that the best team in the world took home probably $3K apiece for their victories in 2021, less even than pros in games like Smash Bros.
On the other hand, those who know believe the scene to be making great strides, and it’s fair to say Siege is far from the worst esport in this respect. Whether that is an indictment on the state of the scene overall, or simply more proof that solving problems like racism and sexism has to happen on a wider level, rather than just in sports or esports, will depend on your point of view, but it is undeniable that even Siege has a lot of room left for growth.