Gender, Gaming, and IT Careers
Joey J. Lee (The Pennsylvania State University, USA), D. Benjamin Hellar (The Pennsylvania State University, USA) and Christopher M. Hoadley (The Pennsylvania State University, USA)
Copyright: © 2006
Many IT researchers have noted the disturbing trend of an incredible shrinking pipeline; this pipeline represents the number of women who are involved in computer and technology fields from high school continuing onto graduate school or professional careers (Camp, 1997; Gorriz & Medina, 2000). A closely related phenomenon is how girls’ interest in computer and video games tends to dwindle during childhood. Researchers feel that computer games have provided “a significant impetus for many boys to become more acquainted with computers … [for] young people who play games are more likely to enter computer-related careers” (Agosto, 2004, pp. 11-12). It seems reasonable, then, that computer and video games provide an easy lead-in to computer familiarity, comfort and literacy (Cassell & Jenkins, 2000). Preschool children of both sexes demonstrate equal interest in computer games, but as girls mature, they lose interest in gaming (Agosto, 2004; Comber, Colley, Hargreaves, & Dorn, 1997). The reasons for this are uncertain. Perhaps it is partly because of the way women are often under represented in games—only 16% of the characters in the bestselling games are female—or when they are represented, the characters are portrayed unrealistically or negatively (Douglas, Dragiewicz, Manzano & McMullin, 2002). Female game characters are frequently depicted as damsels in distress, scantily clad, objectified rewards to be won, or passive bystanders (Provenzo, 1991; Douglas et al., 2002). Cassell and Jenkins (2000, p. 6)) see this portrayal as a “prime example of the social construction of gender.” Another reason may be the lack of enough compelling and attractive content tailored to young girls (Gorriz et al., 2000). Perhaps it is not that girls innately dislike video games, but there are simply too few titles to choose from. Statistics show that women actually do enjoy video games – in fact, 43% of all gamers today are women, but most of these women are over the age of 18 (Entertainment Software Association, 2005). When women do play games, they tend to play online games and social games such as Electronic Arts’ Sims Online. While a game like Sims Online is gender neutral, it is noteworthy that more women (56%) actually play this game than men. Evidently, when content is made available that is attractive or fun to women, they will play. It is, therefore, worthwhile to consider what kinds of games can be leveraged for education to promote computer literacy in girls and to attract more girls to technology in general.