■ Anesa Hosein, University of Surrey Lecturer in Higher Education
As a teenager, I played a lot of video games. I have happy memories of hours dedicated to the pixelated missions of Zelda and Mario Bros on my family's Nintendo Entertainment system. I later studied physics and then engineering at the university.
Is there a connection between my degrees and my love for video games? That's the question I wanted to answer with my latest research. I found that girls who were heavy video game players had more than three times as many physics, engineering, engineering, or math exams as non-players.
This suggests that young women could identify and encourage gamer help get more of them to study these subjects at the university. This would be a practical way to address the gender imbalance and the shortage of skilled workers in areas based on PSTEM expertise. In the long run, we should look for ways to encourage more girls to study these subjects independently of their other interests.
For my research, I examined data from the longitudinal study of young people in England (LSYPE). who followed a group of teenagers from 2004 to 201
Girls who played more than nine hours of video games per week were 3.3 times more likely to study PSTEM. This was the case even if their socioeconomic background, their ethnicity, their past performance, and how well they looked at their chosen topic. Meanwhile, video game boys were only 1.5 times more likely to earn a PSTEM degree.
One way to explain the connection between video games and study choice is the idea of stereotypes and media self-socialization. A common stereotype immortalized by the media is that PSTEM scientists are typically male geeks who are academically brilliant and play non-physical hobbies such as video games. Take, for example, the popular US sitcom The Big Bang Theory, where male scientists are all PSTEM graduates playing video games. By contrast, most female scientists on the show are biologists who do not play games.
Research shows that male students really do master physics and technology, while female students make the majority in biology. I can confirm this with my own experience in the classroom. Some girls who wish to legitimize their membership in PSSEM subjects may try to emulate the geek stereotype, appear less conventional female, emphasize their academic ability, and play video games. Video games can become a kind of socialization or adaptation to the expectations of a PSTEM student.
Not just geeks and gamers
The flip side of this is that girls who do not like the geek stereotype reject PFSEM topics. I am concerned that girls may be deterred by PFSM degrees, although they are likely to achieve equivalent results in secondary education as boys in mathematics, physics and computer science. Without women and girls, science and technology miss the new perspectives and innovations that a broad spectrum of people from different backgrounds can bring.
In this sense, we need to question the PSTEM stereotypes in the media and the media elsewhere, which may prevent women from seeing themselves as scientists or engineers, or encouraging them to adopt stereotypical behavior (though some will, of course, do so) to enter the scientific world. In the long term, it is important for girls to be exposed to alternative role models that do not fit the stereotype, both inside and outside the classroom.
However, my research suggests that we can use them, at least in the short term, to create stereotypes of positive change by encouraging those girls who are more likely to pursue PSTEM issues to pick them up. We know that girls are more likely to drop PSTEM subjects around the age of 16 than boys. So if we can identify heavy players before this time, we can give them more support and encouragement to study PSTEM subjects and pave the way for more gender balance in the field, to the benefit of all.