Sadly and persistently, the number of women in technology fields is outstandingly low. Even though women make up half the workforce, they hold less than 25% of all STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math)-related jobs.
This recent spotlight on the Digital Media and Learning site features the Techbridge, an after school and summer program, that promotes girls’ interest in STEM. One important way that Techbridge fosters this interest is by facilitating connections between the girls and role models and mentors. The DML spotlight brings up two main points about how to engage girls and women in STEM: include mentors and use messaging geared toward women. Creating a job position, or camp or school application that stresses competition and an “every man for himself” attitude is a turn off for women, even those who are already adept in STEM skills and qualified for the position. The key to get more and girls working in STEM? Emphasize opportunities for mentorship and learning, the article says.
An article on MindShift takes exception to the idea that the problem of so few women in STEM can be changed by targeting a “women’s interests.” Here, the author stresses that it all boils down to our understanding “that it’s not about a fixed set of abilities, but about what can be learned.” If girls believe that intellectual ability can be expanded, they are more willing to approach (and excel) in STEM subjects than if they believe that intellectual skills are a gift.
So what about girls and Gamestar? The truth is, we don’t have information about how many of our active Gamestar users are girls. When kids make their accounts they don’t state if they are male or female. While some usernames might give away that the user is a girl (vanessa123, or babygirl7 for example), even then we can’t be sure because your username can be whatever you want. I’m curious if this cover of anonymity gives girls the freedom to engage in a tech-y platform without worrying about stigma or competition. Maybe? I do know that at least one Gamestar “power user” and contest winner is a girl, but I doubt her many fans in Game Alley know that!