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Closing the STEM Gender Gap with Video Games

At XdHacks, we are all about solving problems with interdisciplinary solutions. And we've done some research on how something like video games can work towards mitigating hegemonic social structures.

At XdHacks, we are all about solving problems with interdisciplinary solutions.

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Along with the rapid technological developments of the 21st Century, more and more young people are choosing to pursue degrees in STEM fields, preparing themselves for some of the most in-demand, high-paying jobs of the future. However, according to the American Association of University Women, women are greatly outnumbered in STEM fields, only making up 28% of its workforce. These numbers are especially high in major areas such as computer science and engineering. 

 

Meanwhile, an analysis between girls' video gaming behaviour and undergraduate degree selection finds that girls who participate in video games are 2.5 times more likely to pursue a STEM degree in university (Hosein). Studies have shown that video games can develop positive traits such as professionalism in their players, while also finding gamers to be “reflective, goal-oriented, and social”. As video games have been found to influence degree choice and career paths, directing them towards STEM fields, the inclusion of more female game players can also contribute to encouraging more women to study STEM subjects.

 

How Video Games Affect Education and Career Choice

 

Video games have recently been shown to encourage STEM attributes, while also influencing degree selection and career choice. A fascinating study by Dr. Anesa Hosein, Programme Director of PhD in Higher Education at Surrey, showed that it was nearly three times more likely for girls that were serious gamers, who spend over nine hours a week playing video games, to pursue a PSTEM (Physical STEM) degree. Whereas, girls who were not as serious gamers were more likely to pursue BSTEM (Biological STEM) degrees, Social Sciences, however some even more likely to not go to university at all (Hosein). 

An article featured in The Conversation by the same author suggests that “identifying and encouraging young women gamers could help get more of them studying these subjects at university” (Hosein). Video game gratifications such as challenge, social interaction, and competition each positively correlate with STEM subjects such as engineering, physical science, mathematics, and medical service; also correlating with traits such as academic achievement, independence, and interpersonal confidence. Further, it was found that these correlations especially affected women, often with no significance in men (Giammarco et al.). These sources suggest that video games have the ability to affect the future paths of individuals, influencing degree choices as well as career choices, often directing them towards STEM fields. Optimizing the benefits of video games and recognizing their correlations to STEM can expose individuals to a variety of choices and come to recognize their passions through gameplay.

 

Benefits of Video Games

Video games can serve cognitive benefits such as improvements in basic visual processes, attention and vigilance, executive functioning, and job-related skills. These mentioned benefits include many skills that are essential to today’s world in careers and education. Developing these skills can be extremely useful in preparing young individuals for success, further, to encourage more women to develop STEM attributes and inspire them to pursue careers in their fields. In addition, video games can benefit a wide audience of children, special needs groups, and rehabilitation patients. These groups can benefit from the “therapeutic benefits” of video games such as impulse control and spatial awareness; also assisting in education with language skills, basic math and reading skills, and social skills (Griffiths). These many benefits allow for the development of valuable skills that are transferable to STEM and IT as they encourage learning, social skills, and positive behaviours.


So What?

 

Overall, studies have found that video games can play a significant role in enforcing traits and behaviours, also influencing the future paths of its users, often directing them towards STEM fields. Furthermore, it is crucial that the STEM gender gap is addressed as gender inequality in its fields contributes to a lack of diversity in STEM workers. A diverse workforce provides numerous benefits as it invites a greater variety of perspectives into consideration; while it is found that “teams with equal numbers of men and women generate on average 41% more revenue for their employer” (D’Ath). As STEM careers are rapidly growing in demand, it is essential to recruit diversely to avoid shortage and poor representation in workers. By recognizing that many girl gamers may have already developed a natural interest in STEM subjects (Hosein), realizing their passions will be more apparent and will make it easier to guide themselves towards their desired career path. Ultimately, the introduction of video games can be an effective way of exposing more girls to STEM attributes, encouraging them to explore the field, abolish stereotypes, and pave their way towards greater gender balance.

 

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