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Why Cloud9 believes its first all-women’s team is a big step for e-sports

Professional e-sports organization Cloud9 recently announced the formation of its first all-women’s team to compete in Valorant tournaments: Cloud9 White.

Digital Trends sat down with with representatives of the official partners for Cloud9 White — Kristen Salvatore, senior vice president of marketing at Cloud9, and Shiz Suzuki, assistant vice president of sponsorships and experimental marketing at AT&T — to talk about the team and the future of e-sports.

Digital Trends: How did Cloud9 White and this partnership with AT&T come together?

Kristen Salvatore: If you look back at how we’ve had this sort of evolution — and in some cases, revolution — of our roster changes over the years, you can see how we are predisposed to action when it comes to making changes as needed, seizing opportunities when we see them. 

Cloud9 White roster
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Inclusiveness, opportunity, equity: These are kind of platforms that hold up our mission. I wouldn’t say necessarily that we had this long-standing plan, like, “Let’s go sign a women’s team,” but we do have a long-standing plan to make sure that we are finding opportunities to bring the best people into the organization and into sports.

It’s really important for Cloud9, for people to understand that we’re conscious of how often it has seemed as though the creation of women’s teams can ring hollow as sort of a, you know, a marketing initiative and little more.

This is part of a very meaningful journey to make sure that we are moving toward a place of equity in e-sports. 

Shiz Suzuki: AT&T partnered with Cloud9 in early 2019, and we started in a place of doing a lot of content. We share this really joint passion point of elevating women and gaming, which is a really important thing for us. 

When you have a diverse workforce, a diverse executive leadership team, you will continue to create content and things that appeal to a broader base of of people

Being a woman of color, overseeing sponsorships for a company like AT&T, I appreciate that perspective. And it’s been really exciting to see us bring some of our visions, our collective visions to life here just the same way we did with Cloud9 White.

As women that have been in this industry for a while, how far do you think es-ports is on this journey to equity?

Salvatore: E-sports is a microcosm of the world at large and the many conversations that I think we’re all having right now. How are we moving through the world and how are we ensuring to actively create space and lift up voices that are underrepresented?

For me anyway, it’s very hard to kind of pull those two things apart: What’s happening in the world of sports and what’s happening in the world around us.

Cloud9 White player
Image used with permission by copyright holder

What we’re all really excited for is actually the day that we don’t have to make a big deal because we’ve just announced a women’s team. That’s actually the first step on the way to the end goal, which is genuine equity.

The only way to get there is to lift up and shine a light on and create more of these opportunities right now. I personally subscribe to the philosophy that, especially for younger girls and women, the feeling of “I see her, I can be her.” That’s very powerful

Suzuki: One of my favorite stories is about the ’67 Boston Marathon, which at the time, women were not allowed to compete in. A woman by the name of Kathrine Switzer signed up using her initials: K.V. Switzer.

The race director sees her on the course. He jumps out of the car and literally tries to rip the bid number off of her shirt. She managed to finish the race with bib intact and officially became the first woman to finish running the Boston.

Katherine Switzer Boston Marathon
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Katherine could have run, made her point, and continued to live her life. But she decided that that’s not good enough. She wanted to see more women be able to accomplish what she did.

She went to a running company called Avon and said, “I’ve got a pitch for you that we’re going to bring women’s marathons to around the world and we’re going to make this hugely successful.

The Avon Women’s Marathon started in Atlanta and it became an annual event. And every single year, more and more women signed up. A few years later, the Olympics held in Los Angeles became the first Olympics that allowed the women’s marathon.

It literally took one woman, one brand. We remember that even on our toughest days, that this this can all lead to something much greater and bigger. 

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Tom Caswell
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