Founder Focus: Amplifying Female Voices in Gaming with Jessica Medeiros, CEO of Femme Gaming

In a world where the gaming industry has historically been dominated by male voices, Femme Gaming is breaking the mold. Founded with the aim of providing a safe and inclusive space for all gamers who identify as women, Femme Gaming is the ultimate hub for women and marginalized genders in gaming. I had the privilege of sitting down with Jessica Medeiros, the CEO of Femme Gaming, at the Bell Gaming Centre to discuss her journey and the mission of the organization.

So #FEMMEARMY is worldwide, and I'm really excited that it started in Toronto and it exploded worldwide. - Jessica Medeiros

Sami-Jo Perruzza (SP): Could you introduce yourself? Tell us more about the org... What did you do, how did you get into it? Stuff like that.

Jessica Medeiros (JM): Yeah, so the organization is called Femme Gaming, and we're a women-led esports and gaming community, empowering women and gamers. As we know, for some reason, when we think of a video game, we think of a teenage boy, yet 45% of gamers identify as women. And the average female gamer is 30 (years of age) plus. So we definitely want to market to women. Though we love also marketing to our allies as well and having them a part of our initiative.

SP: What aspects of the organization are there that people can expect from Femme Gaming? Online or in real life.

JM: As I said, we are trying to empower women in gaming. We are trying to normalize women in gaming - so a lot of the things we do are like going to in-person events, we have the femme gaming lounge, we have our Twitch shows, our Ladies Power Hour, Press Start streams, so those are just a couple of things we do to create Femme Gaming community and ensure that we're keeping our head in the game. Making sure our space is there and making sure we're being present.

SP: And your organization, is it Canada-based? Is it international? NA (North American) based...?

JM: Yeah, so we are based out of Toronto, Canada. That is where we started, but our community is worldwide, actually. We have people from the Netherlands, Australia, South Africa, Europe, South America... So we are so excited that there is a community worldwide that knows about Femme Gaming. Our community hashtag is the #FEMMEARMY. So #FEMMEARMY is worldwide, and I'm really excited that it started in Toronto and it exploded worldwide. Which really shows that this is needed. You know what I mean? Women want to see women empowerment in gaming. Women want to see themselves playing games, women want to be represented, and I'm so happy that it's a success so far.

SP: Now what about you specifically? What made you want to start the organization, what year is it? What was your position at the time?

JM: Femme Gaming started back in 2020, but my video game career, or experience, started back in 2013, I believe. And there was a Call Of Duty release at Yorkdale Mall back in the day when people actually waited in line for video games. 

SP: Do you remember what Specific Call of Duty it was?

JM: You know I don't! I know it wasn't a Black Ops... It was a Modern Warfare, I believe. I don't remember which one... And it was a Midnight release. We were at Yorkdale, twelve o'clock doors open, and people lined up to get the game... but it was also an experience. We had sloppy joes being served; we had a face painting section - so people were putting on face paint. People were creating dog tags, it was so much fun, and we were doing giveaways. And at the end of the day - we ended at 4 am - I was like, wow, this was so much fun.

I felt like I didn't work. I felt like I went to an event, and I had fun even though I was the employee, so I was like, "I need to get more into video game events." So I started to look online, and I found more like video game events and esports events, so I started doing a lot of work with PlayStation and a lot of work with MLSE (Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment) games with the Toronto Raptors and the Toronto Maple Leafs representing PlayStation when the VR first came out and doing a lot of 2K games and a lot of NHL games with PlayStation. And then, it slowly started turning into esports events, and esports became really popular. And so I started working for this company where I would go and set up the consoles. So, I would show up at the facility by myself, and I would go up to the guys and let them know I was here to work, and the look on their faces was like...What YOU are here to set up the consoles?

And they were like ugh...They looked at each other like "oh god". They asked me; do you know how to use a console? Have you set up anything like this? And I'm like...Well, obviously, someone hired me because I know what I'm doing, and second of all - I'm setting up a console; there are two cords involved! There is an HDMI cord and a power cord, and to think I wouldn't be able to put those two cords together in a console was like.... like they thought I was an alien. And it happened the first time, and I was like, ok, whatever; it happened the second... third... fourth time... people questioning me, why am I here? Can I do this? But no one else was being questioned. And then I realized, oh, it's because I'm the girl. I realized they were treating me differently because I'm female.

And so, I started doing my research, and I was like, well, how many women are gamers? Because back in the day, I felt like I was the only women gamer. I felt like there wasn't a big community, and I was alone. When I did my research, I was like, almost 45% of gamers are women?! Why isn't anyone marketing to these people? Why isn't anyone giving them a safe space? Why do we automatically think of a teenage boy? Like, what has the industry been doing for the last twenty years?

"Because of my experiences and learning through the information that was out there, I NEEDED to start Femme Gaming. I needed to help or try to end the toxicity online. I needed to give women a chance to play."

Jessica Medeiros

Because of my experiences and learning through the information that was out there, I NEEDED to start Femme Gaming. I needed to help or try to end the toxicity online. I needed to give women a chance to play. I needed to market to women and show them that - like Sami is wearing one of our shirts right now *gestures to Sami-Jo in a Femme Gaming Shirt* You know - like they can buy cool gaming stuff that relates to them! And it works. And that's what started it. Also, you don't really see any esports players that are female - so Femme Gaming is also trying to fill that gap as well. So, as I said - my negative experiences and knowing that there is a market and no one is hitting that market. 

SP: So knowing that 46% of gamers identify as women, what were the specific challenges you had to face when creating the organization? Either at its inception or even to this day - Do you face any big challenges?

JM: We work with really great partners like MLSE, who jump through the hoops with us, make us comfortable, and do a lot of really great things with us. So it's just... Being taken seriously as a female gamer, being taken seriously as a women-led organization, and really showing that we do the dirty work as the organization. We do the events, we do the Twitch shows... No one is getting paid; we're all volunteers, but I feel like the impact we've made in the last three years... it's hard to beat that.

SP: One hundred percent! I've only recently come into the organization, and it's been such a game-changer. I love that you guys reached out to me, and ever since I've discovered what Femme Gaming is, I've always loved the message and the meaning, and there is a lot of power behind that. A community of women hoping to do better and making the gaming space better and safer for everyone. So thank you so much for that...

So, what is an epic gaming moment you have had in the Femme Gaming Army? Do you have one moment that you are like.. wow! This was really neat or really cool. 

JM: Yeah, so I think when we go to certain events and people see the Femme Gaming lounge, and the consoles, and the purple carpets that we have and the "girly stuff" we have if that's what you want to call it, and they're just like wow this is here. "Wow, imagine if this was here around 20 years ago", or "Wow, imagine if this was here when I was a kid!" It's amazing to see people coming together in the lunge and play together. For example, we were in Calgary, and we had a mom who wanted to breastfeed. She was walking around the convention, saw our lounge, came up to us, and was like, "Hey, do you mind if I breastfeed here?" We were like, of course! That's the point. To make women feel comfortable.

SP: A safe space...

JM: Yeah. I had a dad drop off his two girls who said, "Oh my god, I am so happy this is here. My two girls can play video games, and I know they're safe and in a safe environment," which feels really good. And then just having the women come and be like, "Oh, this is awesome!" "Rock on!" "keep doing what you're doing," or they're like, "We want to support you; can we buy your merchandise?" Like WE want to wear the Femme Army t-shirts. We want to wear the Empowered Women Empower Everyone. We want to show we are female gamers, and we want to support the cause. So, in-person events are not like anything else. And to really see the people when they see the lounge is really inspiring. That's the point. To have those girls play at a young age so they can start becoming pro esports at age seventeen or eighteen... but if they don't start playing at thirteen or fourteen, they'll never fill that gap.

SP: So I know we've talked about this briefly out of interview, but for the interview, you've recently announced your partnership with Mohawk College. What is it about esports and school that you think is so important? You talked about getting in on entry level - can you talk a little bit more about that?

JM: Yeah, I think it's so important for women to get into education in esports or video game creation... whichever way you want to go. Mohawk has two programs: an esports administration program and a video game design program. It's so important for women to take advantage of these programs because it's a booming industry. There is more job opportunity in gaming and esports than there is in traditional sports. So having Femme Gaming partner with Mohawk College is super important to have women learn their skills through education. Learn their experience through education. And taking that education and creating a career out of it. And that's what we want to see. We want to see women holding these high career positions in the gaming industry. We want to see them as esports players, we want to see them as tournament organizers, and having these education programs is an amazing stepping stone to get into the industry.

SP: So, what do you think the next step is? Would you want to partner with more colleges or even get to high school or elementary school? What would your dream team be? 

JM: The next steps would definitely be having video game tournaments in high school, even at an elementary school level; that would be awesome, too, but having an esports organization at a high school level would be awesome. You know, we already see collegiate esports becoming a thing, which is awesome. The next step is to get into other elementary and high school level areas and provide torments for them, and have co-ed tournaments as well. However, we are Femme Gaming; we try to stay away from all female tournaments because it doesn't help solve the problem. We're all about bringing everyone together. We're super excited to have a co-ed tournament happen in 2024, and the next step is to definitely get into high schools and then eventually, from there, create a pro team. Whether it's an all-female team or a co-ed team, something we definitely want to see happen as well.

SP: That would be awesome. Obviously, being a female gamer and growing up in the gaming space, toxicity, and harassment can be such a barrier to female and female-representing people getting into esports and gaming. How do you or the organization deal with those challenges of toxicity and hate online? 

JM: There are a couple of ways you can look at it. When I was younger, I used to ignore it because I was not confident, and I was not able to call it out - so I would turn my mic off, and I would only play as a male avatar. I didn't want people to know I was a female gamer because I didn't want to feel the bullying and the toxicity. But now? I'm like, nope, I'm a female character. It says it in my name. If you want to be toxic, I will call you out on it. I will ask, "Oh, why are you telling me to go to the kitchen? Are you unable to do it yourself?" You know what I mean? I literally call them out. I'm not negative back. There is no need to be negative; that will just internally help you. And don't take it too seriously.

Like I said - I call it out, or if I don't want to deal with it, I turn my mic off. What we're trying to do at Femme Gaming is normalize it (female gamers) in person, so hopefully, when people play online together, they will be like, "Oh yeah, I played with the Femme Gaming girls," or "Oh yeah, women play together" or "Yeah we saw the lounge, and it's an everyone thing, not just a guy thing." So that's how we deal with the toxicity - trying to create a safe environment in person and online, try not to engage with the toxicity too much. Call it out. Make it aware in the game that that person is being toxic. If they still want to continue being toxic, just let it go because you can't change everyone.

SP: One hundred percent! Now, does Femme Gaming have a discord or an online forum where they can come together and, say, vent to one another if they want to? 

JM: We do have a discord community. We have over three thousand gamers worldwide in the community that we meet and talk. We do have a venting group in there; we have a gamer mom group; we have a collegiate group, so you can fit wherever in the group. And then, we also have our Facebook group as well. If you are not on Discord, you can use Facebook. And as I said, in person, we have events. You can always meet other gamer girls.

SP: So, my next question is a little bit of a fun one... If your gaming organization could have one theme song, what would it be and why? 

JM: So I was thinking about this, and it would be 'Unstoppable' by SIA. Because I feel like the #FEMMEARMY, we're not going to stop. We're going to keep going. And the whole song represents the femme army. Like, we're here to stay. You're not going to stop us. And we will keep going until we're where we need to be, which is equal opportunity within esports and video games.

SP: That's a very good one. And if you could choose any video game character as the Femme Gaming mascot, who would it be and why?

JM: You know, several characters resemble the Femme Army and our community. Still, for now, I will stick with Tomb Raider/Lara Croft because Lara Croft is an archeologist. Still, a lot of the other archeologists don't take her seriously or don't consider her an archeologist because she is a woman. And that is like with our industry; people don't see you (women) as a gamer. Or people don't see you as an esports player because you are a girl. They go, "Oh, you just like to do it because it's popular now." It's like, no, I enjoy doing it. I'm a female gamer; I am who I am.

On top of that, Laura Croft faces many challenges, and she always rises to the top. I feel like that is what we do at Femme Gaming. We face many challenges in the industry, but we always rise to the occasion and get through and get what we need done.

SP: I love that. Now, if someone wants to be involved in the Femme Gaming army, where can they join? And also, as a follow-up to that, if there are male allies or anyone across the queer spectrum, are they welcome? Do you mind if they join the discord/community? 

JM: So right now, our website is femmegaming.gg, our TikTok is FemmeGamingGG, and our Instagram is FemmeGaming. Right now, if you identify as a woman, you are allowed in our Discord. If you identify as a male, we encourage you to follow us on socials and support us that way. Our Discord is an inclusive environment for our women to meet and stay together, so we want to keep it that way. In the future, we might have a separate section where allies can join, but for now, it is inclusive for our women, and we encourage our allies to one hundred percent support us on socials.

SP: So last question - So what are the future goals? What is the vision? Where do you want to be in two or three years from now?

JM: Yeah, so we definitely want to start our pro team and have our pro team compete in tournaments. We want to see a lot more women esports players being represented in the next two years. And those are our main goals. So, to get a team and put on a co-ed tournament. Those are our main goals for 2024.

SP: Do you have a specific game in mind for a possible pro team or not yet?

JM: I don't know yet. If I had to choose just personally, it would be Call of Duty because that is my game of choice, but depending on what's popular and the players we can acquire, it might be a different game. We'll see when the time comes.

SP: Well, great. Thank you so much for chatting with us. If you guys are interested, please check out Femme Gaming, and that is it! Thank you so much, and we are done.

JM: Thank you so much everyone. Thank you.

Femme Gaming, under the leadership of Jessica Medeiros, is undoubtedly making great strides in amplifying female voices in the gaming world. By providing a safe and supportive space for female gamers, Femme Gaming is not only empowering individual gamers but also contributing to the greater cause of gender diversity within the gaming industry. It's an exciting journey that we will eagerly follow.