Women’s History Month 2023: Showcasing Powerhouse Women Making A Difference

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We can’t talk about diversity and representation in the gaming and esports industries without mentioning some of the individuals presently forging a path and making our voices heard. Whether it be through advocacy or simply existing and working in those two industries, the presence of women and gender-diverse individuals makes a difference in making those spaces more inclusive and safer for future generations. In honour of Women’s History Month, Femme Gaming wanted to showcase six such individuals.

Jessica Davis, CEO/Founder of GameHer

Paving the way for organisations like Femme Gaming, Jessica Davis founded GamerHer a decade ago in 2013. Her initial vision was to create an online platform for women to get together based on their love of gaming, as well as a clothing line featuring the brand’s identity. She’s also involved in traditional sport, and has been working for the basketball team Cleveland Cavaliers, in particular in their youth program.

An avid gamer since her childhood, Jessica has a particularly fond memory of participating, and winning, the Madden NFL 18 tournament at Microsoft Lenox, as the only woman participant among 25 male contestants. Her favourite games include anything in the Mario Bros. universe as well as NBA 2K. Finally, she is proud of having started a gaming company geared towards women back when it wasn’t a focus, and her message to gamers of all backgrounds is simple:

“If gaming is your passion, nothing and nobody should stop you from enjoying it.”

Jessica Davis, CEO/Founder of GameHer

You can follow GameHer on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Marie Claude Bernard, Head of Marketing Communications Marketing at Behaviour

As the Head of Marketing Communications at Behaviour Interactive, Marie Claude Bernard describes her job as “a Communications Powerhouse, Wearer of Many Hats, Hoister of Heavy Things.” She built and empowers a team of 17 communications experts to support the communication surrounding the studio’s portfolio of games, which includes Dead by Daylight. She was in charge of leading the communication strategy for the top-selling co-op horror game, with over 1.8M copies sold, and built what is now known as the Dead by Daylight Anniversary from the ground up, a stream that collected over 2M views last year.

Marie Claude has been in the industry for 15 years, and is proud to still be part of it today: she says it was not an easy space to grow into for women, and she had to build a robust armour to make her own path. To other women looking to enter the gaming industry, she says:

“Take the space that is rightfully yours. Be unapologetically yourself. Surround yourself with diverse folks. Be curious. Show them.”

Marie Claude Bernard – Head Of Marketing Communications Marketing At Behaviour

You can follow Behaviour Interactive and Marie Claude on Twitter.

Pauliina Tornqvist, VR Games Producer at Meta 

Pauliina Tornqvist has a heavy-hitting resume, having spent some time in a handful of the world’s biggest game publishing companies like Ubisoft and Activision and shipping multiple AAA titles throughout her career. She’s now working as a 3rd VR Games Producer at Meta, owning end-to-end production of 3rd party projects across the Quest VR platforms. Her other responsibilities include managing product development from conception to launch and conceptualising interesting and achievable VR interactions suited to Meta’s brand. 

Her start in the industry is pretty impressive: as a student, she founded a game studio called Meteo Game House to kick start her career in gaming. She’s also a fervent advocate for a more diverse and inclusive game industry, and she’s volunteered for organisations such as WIGI, IGDA, and ESA Foundation. Pauliina believes in the power of representation:

“We need women to see other women doing their thing and kicking butt in roles that are generally still associated with the opposite gender. Because then, some woman, somewhere, might see them and think ‘Hey, maybe I can do it too.’”

Pauliina Tornqvist, VR Games Producer at Meta 

You can follow Pauliina on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Sari Kitelyn, Director of Esports and Project Development at Full Sail University

As the director of Esports at Full Sail University, Sari Kitelyn has been instrumental in developing their award-winning esports program and their collegiate esports organisation, Full Sail Armada. The university, which specialises in degree programs in entertainment media & emerging technologies, competes across a variety of games throughout the year with Full Sail Armada, including Call of Duty, League of Legends, Rocket League, and more.

Sari is involved in esports even more beyond her role at Full Sail. She was voted onto the Board of Directors for the National Association of Collegiate Esports by her peers, and recently launched Esports & Coffee, a Twitch show and online community dedicated to supporting marginalised voices throughout esports and gaming, which she developed with other women advocating for more diversity in those spaces. She believes in women empowering and uplifting each other:

“Some of the strongest women I’ve had the pleasure of meeting work in gaming and esports, and these women are dedicating themselves to improving and evolving this industry to a point where we’ll continue to see more and more women leaders around us. Empowered women empower women, and what I love the most about women in esports is that we are all in this together, we support each other, we champion each other and we lift each other up.”

Sari Kitelyn, Director Of Esports And Project Development At Full Sail University

You can follow Full Sail University on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, and Full Sail Armada on Instagram, Twitter and Twitch

Madison Edgar, Global Events Director & Director of Partnerships at Activision-Blizzard

Meet Madison Edgar, a global gaming, esports, and traditional sports expert with over 14 years of experience in the industry. Growing up playing Call of Duty with her twin sister made her joining Activision Blizzard as Global Events Director and Director of Partnerships a huge win. She is in charge of planning, managing, and activating all events for Call of Duty League and Overwatch League, and she also frequently represents Activision Blizzard as a panellist and speaker for numerous events speaking on gaming, DE&I, networking and careers, and women in gaming. 

Madison is a seasoned professional who has worked with some of the biggest names in sports and gaming and has worked with a diverse range of clients and organisations, including NFL, Playboy, Amazon. She is also a dedicated member of the Activision Blizzard Women’s Network Leadership Team and Asian Pacific Islander Network and enjoys helping others with career advancement and career coaching:

“Though we are not in the spotlight or the face of gaming yet, we are very much here and a large part of the success of gaming and esports. We are creating and continuing to push what’s possible in this industry, and we are growing.”

Madison Edgar, Global Events Director & Director Of Partnerships At Activision-Blizzard

You can follow Activision-Blizzard on LinkedIn and Twitter, as well as Call of Duty and the COD League on Twitter. To stay in touch with Madison, check out her LinkedIn and Twitter profiles. 

Emma Rose, Esports Program Lead for the Iris Project and Esports Ambassador for Femme Gaming

Emma Rose had a remarkable entry in the esports world by winning the gold medal in the female e-football competition at the inaugural Commonwealth Esports Championships in 2022. She’s since been able to quit her regular job to embark on a full-time esports career, a fact she’s very proud of: she streams regularly on Twitch and is involved with many organisations.

As a transgender woman, Emma makes a point to use her platform to advocate for marginalised genders’ issues, and how those play out in the gaming and esports worlds. She works primarily with the organisation Deal Me Out as the Esports Program Lead for the Iris Project, which focuses on promoting a safer place to play and compete for women and marginalised genders. The project also provides educational talks and advice to schools and colleges on how to go about starting a career in esports and gaming, and how to tackle online hate, and Emma is a frequent speaker at gaming and esports-centric events:

“Gaming is for everyone. There should be no barriers whatsoever and women are just as good if not even better than male players.”

Emma Rose, Esports Program Lead for the Iris Project and Esports Ambassador for Femme Gaming

Another high in her fresh career: becoming an Esports Ambassador for Femme Gaming! She was part of the team present in Las Vegas last December to attend the Esports Awards, where she acted as a great networking partner and overall team support.

You can check out Emma’s LinkTree to follow her on all her socials.

Billie Gagné-LeBel

Billie Gagné-LeBel is a queer freelance writer and content creator who loves to explore questions of identity and mental health, alternative relationships and lifestyles, sustainability and travel, beauty and all things Geek. In her free time, she’s a creative makeup artist, a cat lover and travel enthusiast.

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