The royal game of gender bias

Sexism ingrained in one of the world's oldest games


Reported by Desirée Garcia

The history of chess can be traced back 1,500 years. It might take another 1,500 to get women equally represented.

A low number of women are playing chess in comparison to men, according to the Canadian Chess Association website. Within the last year, only 13 female players participated in chess tournaments in B.C., compared to 100 male players. Twelve-year-old Sherry Tian is one of the exceptions that breaks those conventions.

Tian has won a variety of chess championships and recently claimed the B.C. Women’s Championship title last month. Tian, whose fascination with chess began when she was in the second grade, said she doesn’t understand the stereotype that exists between men and women in sports.

“In the leaderboard, in my age group, in British Columbia, I’m actually placed top two, so there are way more boys below me that are scared of me too. So, I shouldn’t be scared of them,” Tian said.

According to the World Chess Federation, there is only one woman, Hou Yifan, in the Top 100 chess players worldwide.

Women doubt their performance ability

UBC sociologist, Sylvia Fuller, said in situations where women find themselves within the minority in comparison to men, women are more likely to feel as though they need an higher ability to succeed and are less likely to have a good time.

Fuller said for women, just knowing their performance is more likely to be scrutinized in an activity, adds an extra layer of stress and cognitive load on them.

“It’s more likely to be seen as poor female competencies in general, rather than an individual failure if you don’t perform well,” Fuller said.

Langara computer science student, Jamie Harper, said that he was raised to play chess and had a great deal of experience competing with women because his father coached chess. Harper said that ultimately, women and men should be treated equally in chess and in all areas.

“It really comes down to us, a society to treat it objectively rather than the inherent gender bias that previous generations perpetuated,” Harper said.


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