Girls in STEM: the link between heavy gaming and PSTEM degrees

Girls in STEM: the link between heavy gaming and STEM degrees
© iStock/gorodenkoff

The University of Surrey has assessed the link between heavy gaming and girls in STEM degree subjects at university.

The study into heavy gaming and girls in STEM found that girls who are heavy gamers are more likely to choose physical science, technology, engineering or maths (PSTEM) degrees than girls who do not game.

The importance of the study

The research leader, Dr. Andrea Hosein said: “Despite the pioneering work of people like Jocelyn Bell Burnell and Surrey’s own Daphne Jackson, the first female Physics professor, there are still too few female PSTEM role models for young women.” The research paper aimed to make observations about the link between gaming and taking up STEM subjects at degree level, to provide an insight into factors which could encourage more girls into STEM. The paper says: ‘This research can provide the basis for whether encouraging gaming in adolescent girls can help them onto PSTEM pathways.’

Girls in STEM

The study, which was funded by the British Academy and published in the journal Computers in Human Behaviour, was able to draw several conclusions about girls in STEM degree subjects and the relationship to heavy gaming. The paper defined heavy gaming as gaming for nine hours a week or more.

The study found that:

•Girls who were considered heavy gamers are more likely to study a PSTEM degree than other girls;
•Those who play multiplayer games are more likely to study PSTEM;
•100 per cent of girls in the study already in PSTEM degrees were identified as gamers, while the same could not be said for boys where a similar amount of gamers existed regardless of degree type; and
•Girls are 58 times more likely to study no degree than to do a PSTEM degree.

Why are girls in STEM more likely to game than boys?

The results of the study raise questions about the PSTEM stereotypes and role models which girls and boys are exposed to. Dr Hosein argued that girls who are identified as having a pre-disposition towards gaming should be given early encouragement to consider futures in PSTEM by their parents and teachers, while girls who do not fit the ‘geek girl’ stereotype should be able to meet alternative PSTEM female role models at school.

Could encouraging gaming help to increase the number of girls in STEM?

Hosein commented: “Educators seeking to encourage more take up of PSTEM subjects should target girl gamers, as they already may have a natural interest in these subjects. We need to get better at identifying cues early to recognise which girls may be more interested in taking up PSTEM degrees.”

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