Yvette Martinez-Rea is the COO of ESL North America. She’ll be speaking on at the XLIVE Esports Summit in New York in August (22-23) on a panel titled ‘How women are playing a crucial role in the growth of esports’. She touches on that same subject here. Yvette Martinez, ESLEsports Insider: What can be done at a grassroots level to encourage the participation of more women in esports?Yvette: The uniqueness of esports is that it doesn’t have the physical restrictions of traditional sports. There are no limitations based on strength or speed, so it should be an even playing field for all genders in respect to performance. We need to be more inclusive at all levels, which is why ESL and Intel founded and support AnyKey, an organization to help diversity in the esports community. This organization exists to help women in esports, along with LGBTQ and racial minorities, feel supported through competition opportunities, highlighting role-models, and online forums to voice concerns in a safe environment. Even though the community is still very male dominant, we’ve heard from some of our CPG sponsors that they need to be more cognizant of the women that attend the events. A lot of guys who are coming to the events are bringing their girlfriends, and that’s one way the female audience is starting to grow and marketers will follow.ESI: What will you be discussing at your panel at XLIVE in August?Yvette: I’ll be discussing how women are playing a crucial role in the growth of esports and what it will take to get there.ESI: ESL is currently involved in the first season of the VR Challenger Series. Can you talk us through your thoughts on this and the potential of VR in esports?Yvette: The potential of VR in esports is endless and adds more to the tournament and viewing experience. It has proven successful for a few of our events, like the IEM Katowice World Championship in March. The VR broadcast attracted 340,000 unique viewers and registered a peak concurrent viewership of 3,000. The length of the engagement in VR broadcast doubled compared to IEM Oakland.ESI: What are your thoughts on female only teams and leagues? Is this the best way to go about levelling up the playing field?Yvette: I’m not sure if female only teams and leagues is the best way to go about levelling up the playing field. It’s a matter of getting more women gamers through the door, more female executives within the organisations, and creating an environment that is inviting to them.Disclaimer: Esports Insider is an Official Media Partner of XLIVE Esports Summit AnyKey is working towards having co-ed teams, and made its first stride at the IEM World Championships in Katowice, Poland where women’s teams compete on the main-stage, winning prize money alongside the professional men’s teams.ESI: Do you see most brands’ campaigns in esports to date being male focused? Are they missing a trick?Yvette: Yes, most brands to date are male focused, and that’s because the audience and viewers are predominantly male. However, what we are seeing is that the numbers are moving towards becoming less skewed, and that’s what brands are paying attention to.