Jonathan Cooper, ex-Bioware employee and lead animator on the first two titles of Mass Effect series tweeted a 3 second video loop showing the very first animation test for Commander Shepard which clearly depicts a female character model jogging around.
Actually, BioWare was affirmative on allowing players to choose the gender of their protagonist. But now we know how it all began even though the default Shepard has always been a male. Players who have spent several hours and months playing multiple characters found the story to be more powerful and emotional on a Paragon level through the voice ( That voice of Jennifer Hale!) and character of female Shepard - who was ultimately dubbed as FemShep by her ardent group of fans. FemShep brought in a lot of praise and attention in ME 3 so much so that BioWare introduced a default female version and marketed the game giving weightage to both the gender.
BioWare's marketing director, David Silverman in an interview with VG24/7, discussed how female Shepard has amassed a massive following with nearly 20% of the players opting for the FemShep. The numbers could've reached a higher level but BioWare never showed off the female version in any of the their earlier ME 3 promotional materials.
Mass Effect's RPG feature had a great impact on gamers. This core ability allowed players to embark on a journey that could misfire and change course depending upon your decisions and in the process, bringing in more responsibility and adding argumental common sense that led to a consensus that FemShep under the guidance of Jennifer Hale's fantastic voice was arguably better than her male version and now we know for real that - Commander Shepard was indeed personified as a female in the very first instance.
The video created 10 years ago during the early genesis of the first Mass Effect game reveals one of the best things to ever happen in the history of gaming. This reveal by Cooper shows how BioWare was prepared to bring out a positive, reinforcing and leading female character in an otherwise male dominated gaming world many years ago. ME 3 was a huge undertaking and brought together gaming communities together in bringing out the most prominent feature of FemShep- the redhead appearance.