Having a successful and enjoyable career alongside a fulfilling romantic relationship is a life goal for many of us. But even in the most gender-equal countries, finding a partnership that lasts is trickier for high-flying women than men.
In Sweden, which ranks first in the European Union’s gender equality index thanks to factors like generous parental leave, subsidised daycare and flexible working arrangements, economists recently studied how promotions to top jobs affected the probability of divorce for each gender. The result: women were much more likely to pay a higher personal price for their career success.
“Promotion to a top job in politics increases the divorce rate of women but not for men, and women who become Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) divorce faster than men who become CEOs,” summarises Johanna Rickne, a professor at Stockholm University and co-author of the research, which was published earlier this month in American Economic Journal.
The paper, which looked at the lives of heterosexual men and women working for private companies with 100 or more employees, found that married women were twice as likely to be divorced three years after their promotion to CEO level compared to their male counterparts. In the public sector, using three decades’ worth of records, women mayors and parliamentarians promoted after an election doubled their chances of splitting from their partners; 75% were still married eight years after the vote compared with 85% of those who didn’t get promoted, while there was no evidence of a similar effect for men. Female medical doctors, police officers and priests who progressed in their careers also followed the trend.
Trolls told Leahviathan to “get cancer and die” and made rape threats because she promoted a game they didn’t like. She is pragmatic: “They bother me, but I know by and large, they’re not real. I try to just separate them from the reality of what I do.”
It’s imperative to learn how to cope with the scale and intensity of the vitriol that can sometimes be experienced. Ignoring trolls and refusing them the attention they crave is a key strategy. Alternatively, calling their bluff and trolling them back in a positive way often helps defuse the situation. Leahviathan also has a moderation crew who help manage abusive comments.
Leahviathan doesn’t reveal her surname or where she lives, which is quite common for live streamers. It’s important to preserve a little bit of privacy. She explains: “there are a lot of creepy people on the internet. Especially as a female, a lot of people get overly attached to you because they see you as a friendly person.”
The 2014 Gamergate controversy was an abusive campaign targeting mainly women. It led to women being hacked, their personal information put online and even rape and death threats.
This kind of abuse is part of a wider issue online including the likes of cyberbullying – where solutions are only just starting to be found. “We need to keep fighting against it,” Harvey says. And it’s not necessarily a gender-specific problem. Leahviathan says, “male streamers get the same thing – just in a different flavour”.
While acknowledging that it can be tough not to let trolls get to you, both Harvey and Leahviathan choose not to dwell on the negative side. They do not want it to be a defining aspect of who they are – and would rather focus on their positive online legacy of influencing people in a good way.
One of the fundamental issues is around disrespect for women in this field – and beyond. Leahviathan believes that “at the basest level, there’s a lack of respect and a lack of equality. It stems from that complete lack of respect that some people have for females in general.”
For Harvey, it can be a case of unconscious bias – it’s not necessarily overt sexism, more ignorance. She chooses to play in all-female teams because gaining “respect takes so much time and so much effort, they don’t give you that luxury, and they don’t want to play with you because they assume you’re not good enough”.
So why do some people think that women aren’t generally considered to be as good as men when it comes to e-sports? There is a massive disparity between male and female professional gamers. While their presence is growing, Harvey believes more women are needed to get involved and compete so that the “gems” can be discovered. It’s also critical to have more female characters in games themselves. Although, of course, gamers of either sex can get just as immersed whether playing a man or women, some female gamers feel more inspired and more of a connection when playing a female character role.
Despite the harsh realities of being a female gamer, Harvey is upbeat: “Most of my career and my life… gaming has been a positive experience.” She describes the electric feeling of competing at the Super Bowl-esque gaming tournaments held in stadiums of 60,000 spectators, with millions watching online: “the thrill and the adrenaline you get… it’s so incredible.”
Still, it’s less news-worthy than it once was to see female gamers at an event. For Harvey, “the conversation about having girls in gaming is kind of getting old, and I think that’s a good thing… we unite more, there’s less competition between us and more fraternity.”
She sees no place for the term “girl gamer” in the future – “you’ve never heard ‘boy gamer’, you don’t say ‘female sports player’.” For Harvey it’s an “old-school term that will hopefully eventually just fade away.”
Leahviathan sums up her position: “as a female gamer, I don’t want to feel like a unicorn… I just want there to be a level playing ground, a level amount of respect. I don’t want to be treated specially and I personally don’t particularly want companies to be hiring me just because I’m female. I want that to just be normal. I want females to be recognised based on merit, rather than gender.” Credit: BBC