Did You Know: Women & Gaming, Darned If You Do, the STEM Achievement Gap

The Dirty Little Secrets of Women + Gaming

Did you know about the “#1reasonwhy” hashtag on Twitter? Back in November, a woman video game programmer responded to a Twitter question about why there aren’t more women in the industry by citing a few examples of bias with the “#1reasonwhy” hashtag. Women (and men) in game development chimed in with hundreds of examples of hostile environments, bias, and even misogyny, filed under the hashtag, and the media jumped on the story.

Last week the chief talent officer at Entertainment Arts (EA), one of the game industry’s biggest companies, contributed her “dirty little secrets” about women and video games:

  1. Women play games – a lot of them
  2. The video game industry wants to hire more women
  3. There aren’t enough to hire…yet

These “secrets” were bookended in the author’s rejection of the suggestion that the video game industry is sexist, and an appeal to women to take responsibility for changing the gender ratio (and the dynamic) of the game developer workforce. What do you think? Where do you come down on the “change the woman / change the environment” debate?

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Helping Students Find Computing

Did you know that University of North Carolina at Charlotte computing professor and associate Dean, Teresa Dahlberg, originally started out as a music therapy major? As a child, she says, she wasn’t doing science experiments and didn’t think of herself as a scientist, but ... she loved to sew. In a Live Science video produced in conjunction with the National Science Foundation, she says she got into computing because it lets her realize her desire to help people while also making things. Describing what she loves most about her job, Dahlberg says, “I think and I solve problems for a living. I’m always inspired.”

Do you market your computing or technology programs to students who may not think of themselves as scientists, but who are inspired to help people or who like to create things? Women and other underrepresented groups often don’t envision themselves in computing because they don’t know to think of it as a field where creativity, collaboration, and problem-solving apply. Our talking points card, “Why Should Young Women Consider a Career in Information Technology?” has some great points to emphasize when doing outreach to high school students or counselors (also available in Spanish and gender-neutral versions.)

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Darned If You Do … or Don’t

Did you know that men and women employees have different expectations for leaders, depending on whether those leaders are male or female? For example, women employees -- particularly in male-dominated industries -- often are expected to exhibit traditionally male characteristics like decisiveness, aggressiveness, or authority in order to advance up the ladder. Once they become leaders, however, these same women are expected to exhibit more traditionally female characteristics like compassion, sensitivity, and self-disclosure, and are evaluated more poorly by their female employees if they do not. In other words, “The climb up may well require a different approach than what it takes to stay there.”

While traditional gender roles and stereotypes are morphing, it may be that women in leadership positions will do best by acknowledging society’s expectations of women, as well as society’s expectations for (traditionally male) leadership roles. For other tips on successful advancement in IT careers, check out NCWIT’s “Top 10 Ways to Thrive in Your Technical Career.”

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A Fix for Gender Bias in Hiring?

Did you know that considering multiple job applicants simultaneously might help alleviate gender bias in job interviews? A recent study found that our biases about men being “better at math” and women having “better verbal skills” are alive and well in job interviews. Employers presented with a candidate’s performance results were more likely to recommend male candidates for math-related advancement, and female candidates for advancement related to verbal performance (despite the merits of the candidates’ actual performance.)

This gender bias disappeared, however, when the employers in the study considered both a male and a female candidate together. In that case, the employers were more likely to recommend advancement based on the candidate’s actual performance. Says the study’s co-author: "If you see one pair of shoes in a store, it's very hard for you to know how this pair compares in terms of quality or price or color. You base your judgment on whatever comes to mind … But when you have different shoes available, all of a sudden you can calibrate the color and quality better.”

In fact, 51% of the employers who considered candidates individually chose a candidate who had underperformed relative to the group. By contrast, only 8% of the employers who considered candidates side-by-side chose underperformers. As a startup, you can’t afford to bring on underperforming employees. Isn’t it nice to know that you might improve your gender ratios at the same time tFor more tips on avoiding bias in the hiring process, check out our practice, “How Can Reducing Unconscious Bias Increase Women's Success in IT? Avoiding Gender Bias in Recruitment/Selection Processes.”

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Shrinking the STEM Achievement Gap

Did you know that only 29 percent of high schools with high-minority student populations offer calculus, compared to 55 percent of schools with low-minority populations? Did you know that 25 percent of teachers for low-income students have no certification in mathematics, compared to 11 percent for high income students?

A PBS story on McKinley High School, a Title 1 magnet school in Washington, D.C., describes how the school is trying to encourage more underrepresented students to consider careers in science and technology. In doing so, the story makes clear the importance of giving students access to rigorous STEM classes and providing them with instruction from high-quality educators. "Students from impoverished areas generally have not met STEM professionals, do not know about STEM careers. It's generally out of the realm of their experience," said Linda Rosen, the CEO of Change the Equation.

If you’d like to find out more about offering rigorous, high school computing classes or increasing training for computing educators, check out the CS Principles initiative: www.ncwit.org/csprinciples.