A photo of the Roehampton University Esports Arena. Several gaming PCs and chairs are around the room

Meet the recipients of Europe’s first women’s esports scholarship

The University of Roehampton launched Europe’s first women’s esports scholarship earlier this year to improve diversity and inspire the next generation of women in esports.

Esports, where players compete in multiplayer video games, has a big gender imbalance – just 23% of fans were women according to a 2019 US study by Interpret’s New Media Measure.

Prior Roehampton scholarships have focused on competitive players but this year they are taking a more rounded approach.

Jonas Kontautas, Roehampton University Esports Coordinator said: “Instead of trying to build a new generation of esports players we’re trying to build the next generation of esports professionals, people who can go into the business side, broadcasting, marketing, or legal.

“If students get transferable skills of talking in front of camera or organising teams or setting up businesses through esports, then that’s a success in our eyes.”

This year’s scholars are third year Jade Cavanagh and second year Lily Jahan, both criminology students. 

Lily, who competes on the Valorant team, is focused on making sure that they do as well as possible, whereas Jade is focused on building the community around esports.

A CGI image of five characters from the game Valorant arranged in a V formation with a dark red background.
ESPORT: Valorant is a free-to-play multiplayer first-person shooter published.
Credit: Riot Games

Lily said: “I’ve always played games my entire life but having a job related to esports would be amazing for me. 

“In my first year I was basically in the esports room everyday, I was there from 11am and sometimes left at 3am.

“I got along with so many people and it was just like another family.”

A man and Lily Jahan sit in front of a computer monitor in the esports arena looking at it intently
PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT: Women in esports scholar Lily Jahan in the esports arena

Jade has recently been organising off campus Among Us nights. 

In the space-themed social deduction game, players work together to detect the imposter in a similar way to in-person games like Mafia or Werewolf. 

She said: “It was really successful, we had people that I’ve never met before come along, from both off campus and on campus, and it made me very proud because I managed a successful event and we’re gonna do it weekly now.

“I applied for the scholarship because I knew I could help bring girls and women into the scene, because when I started coming to the arena and getting involved it was very daunting because it was very male dominated, so it gave me an opportunity to break that stereotype.”

Jade Cavanagh gives a peace sign which wearing a face mask sat in front of a computer monitor in the esports arena
‘JUST GO FOR IT’: Women in Esports scholar Jade Cavanagh

From January, Roehampton plan to introduce women only time in their esports arena to help make esports more welcoming for women. 

The arena is open to all Roehampton students and is equipped with 20 high-end gaming PCs.

The National University Esports League ran their first women only esports tournament this year for League of Legends to support diversity in university esports.

Both scholars would encourage other women to apply and join the world of esports. 

Jade said: “Girls at any age are capable of doing anything if you put the time in, my advice is just go for it.”

Lily added: “Just push yourself to do it because you could push other women to do the same things you did, push yourself to not be scared and put up with any nonsense that could come up.” 

Roehampton provided the UK’s first esports scholarship to Julia Cwierz, a Law graduate back in 2018.

The Women in Esports scholarship is worth £1,500 a year and applications for 2021 are now open with an initial deadline of 14 January 2021.  

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