There are more women playing video games in the U.S. than at any time, according to recent research from the Entertainment Software Association (ESA). The average American gamer is 31 years old and 48% are female, which is up from 40 percent in 2010. Women age 18 or older represent a significantly greater portion of the game-playing population (36%) than boys age 18 or younger (17%).
The popularity of free-to-play online and mobile games from Kim Kardashian: Hollywood to Candy Crush Saga to Plants vs. Zombies has helped the number of female gamers age 50 and older increase by 32% from 2012 to 2013, according to the ESA. Generations of women who grew up playing games like Super Mario Bros. and The Sims have made things even with men (50%) when it comes to the most frequent game purchasers, whose average age is 35.
According to a recent survey conducted by the International Game Developers Association (IGDA), the number of women working in the game industry has doubled since 2009 to 22% of the workforce. But it’s still a man’s world— 76% of game developers are men. Wanda Meloni of M2 Research, who worked on the IGDA survey, said much of the female growth is in the education and student sector of respondents.
“Even with these positive points, there has never been more blatant reproach and harassment towards the women making games and female consumers who are growing the market with their wallets,” said Meloni. “The backlash has reached a head, and is something that is greatly impacting the market both from within and with consumers. The message continues to be one where women are unwelcome, but the women on this Fortune list continue to forge their own paths, and we applaud them for that.”
Below are 10 powerful women in the $76 billion global video game business today (in alphabetical order).