STEM | Women in Tech and Video Games

Welcome to HeR News! Here you can find the latest hot topics, and news–from all things Nancy Drew to updates in the gaming industry, history of video games, and any trending conversations we feel like Nancy and our team should contribute to. 

Part of our aim with this new blog is to bring attention to women and diversity in the gaming space. We’ll be discussing topics such as Black History Month, Women’s History Month, and any other relevant events that happen throughout the year. 

In addition, we’ll share the latest updates about HeR Interactive and work with bloggers across the industry to discuss upcoming shows, games, and books in the mystery-adventure and educational genres. If you have ideas for blogs that you’d like to contribute, please email them to us at marketing@herinteractive.com. Here are some thought starters to help you know what we’re looking for, but be creative! 

The Top 5 Hardest Nancy Drew Puzzles, How Nancy Drew Inspired Me To Do…, 10 Things I Learned Playing Nancy Drew, Nancy Drew Games and Their Book Counterparts, How Playing as a Female Heroine Changed Me, How I Use Video Games in My Classroom, History of Video Games, My Favorite Female Protagonists, etc… 

*Please note that articles written by individuals do not necessarily reflect the view of the company, but that the company would like to share these for added perspective and discussion.

Before we do a deep dive into this subject matter of STEM and women in tech, let’s first describe why STEM is so important as we celebrate International Women’s Day.  The vocation and curriculum of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) has garnered much attention. It was first introduced as an acronym by The National Science Foundation in 2001. For several reasons, STEM is a top tech topic (try saying that three times). As technology and the sectors surrounding STEM roles have rapidly progressed in the 21st century, the competitiveness to enter these professional fields has followed.

STEM: Women in Tech and Video Games
Photo by Student Edge

Calling all STEM-inists

Although there is a progression of interest, collegiate pursuit, and career(s) pursuit in the STEM field, there is a current and unfortunate gender gap across all educational and professional sectors of STEM. In every work field, it is important that gender gaps become smaller, and the gender-equitable opportunities become bigger. According to statistics drawn from the 2019 report form U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, this insightful article by the American Association of University Women shows that only 28% of the STEM professional field is made up of women. That stark gap is something that all of us can agree needs to become smaller!

What does STEM have to do with video games?

It’s understandable that picturing STEM professions usually means first picturing a scientist in a lab or someone in the engineering field – our minds don’t initially picture someone creating a video game. However, another beautiful aspect of video games is that the process and the creation of video games incorporates a lot of different STEM processes. Math, engineering, science, and technology actually ALL play their role in making video games, and ultimately, the processes are included in the actual video games themselves. Those of us who spend our time with a console in hand rather than a coding screen in front of us may not know all the intricacies that come with developing a video game, but it’s complicated, to say the least. Mathematics, specifically algebra, are both necessary to make video games. And, of course, video games require software engineering, which includes coding. Everything connects and manifests in the world of gaming.

Girls and Video Games

Stereotype Threat

The gender gap statistic of only 28% of women being in the STEM field also applies to the video game world, which is numerically the biggest sector of entertainment. 

There are over 3.1 billion gamers. 3.1 billion is a large number, but as a video game enthusiast, I want that number to be even bigger. At the end of the day, I think everyone that can be a gamer should be a gamer. To keep things in a positive light about women entering this sector, I do want to  highlight the statistical improvements of women entering in STEM. Of course, all letters within the STEM acronym are important as far as gender equality goes, but thankfully, for the video game sector, technology and engineering are among the most opportunistic and monetarily equitable fields, so there is a higher pursuit (between men and women both) of these two categories. Both technology and engineering are valuable strengths to study to potentially land a myriad of video game design roles.

The American Association of University Women in their STEM research journal, Solving the Equation, writes up four key topics and calls to action to combat STEM gender inequality: combating stereotypes and biases, emphasizing social relevance, cultivating a sense of belonging, and changing the environment. “Stereotype threat” was a concept introduced in this academic journal that stood out to me. “Stereotype threat” is the ideology that any individual who belongs to a stereotyped group fears that the negative stereotypes of their group will be confirmed if and when they perform their tasks. This happens often with women in STEM, and it creates an uncomfortable and silencing dynamic in their classroom or workplace.

STEM Studies and Research

These calls to action from Solving the Equation can be appropriately applied in all fields of work, because women belong in all fields of work.

Learn and Play - video games and STEM education!

Getting women intrinsically excited about the subjects within STEM can start with raising young girls to enjoy playing video games! A bevy of studies over time have shown that video games help young and old minds both to challenge and develop their critical thinking skills. The Forbes Technology council writes about this in their article How Video Games Help Students Level Up STEM Learning. Deeper thinking and problem-solving can help all of us specifically with our mathematics and technology efficacy.

STEM: Women in Tech and Video Games

As technology progresses at a rapid rate, it is important that all of us do our part in continually educating ourselves, as rapid as the growth may be. Rather than thinking about video games as a way to disengage, it is about using video games to get engaged in learning and figuring out steps in a game while developing logic skills. Since video games also use a great deal of STEM knowledge to create, it organically helps individuals when teaching coding and computer skills. In this regard, getting hooked on learning video games and playing them early on is one of the best benefits of being a gamer!

Many video games help develop life-long skills that are also good for computer science basics and for STEM careers. Nancy Drew games, for example, make learning and playing fun, while providing gameplay that is ideal for learning and developing critical thinking skills. HeR Interactive’s Learn and Play is just one of the fantastic ways that you and your loved ones can learn from subjects such as history, math, science, culture, linguistics, and so on! Although learning looks much different in 2021, HeR Interactive will always support the notion that authentic learning can take place anywhere.

STEM: Women in Tech and Video Games

There are many women to celebrate who are working in video games and tech that are featured on the Unlocked podcast. They have chosen studies and careers in STEM related fields having been inspired by playing Nancy Drew video games. Listen to their stories and be inspired too! Our “Unlocked!” podcast features three fantastic women, Tiana Dollison  Samantha Duncan Calina Herman talking about their passion for video games, STEM, and their areas of work!

Nancy Drew players in STEM Careers

Nancy Drew’s popularity and inspiration even travelled to outer space! This episode of “Unlocked!” features a life-long Nancy devotee and NASA rocket scientist, Kristen Boomer, describing how playing Nancy Drew games inspired her to chase her professional dream…

 “My mom owned almost all of the original 56 Nancy Drew books, and the few she didn’t have, I quickly picked up at the bookstore.”

Kristen also began to watch the Nancy 1970’s TV series on VHS, and in 1998, when the first ever Nancy Drew video game “Secrets Can Kill” released, her love for all things Nancy continued to grow…

“I was pretty set on going into a science and engineering field from an early age, but one thing I always thought was cool about the games was that they’re very educational, and so sometimes you learn things in the games, and then you later learn them in school, and you think ‘Wow, that’s pretty awesome, I already knew that because I learned that in Nancy Drew.’”

We have our calls to action for developing early skills to spark STEM interest, our calls to action to change the game in gender gaps in STEM, and our calls to action to incorporate women in making video games. Shall we now have a history lesson to celebrate the women pioneers of STEM?

STEM Women - The pioneer of Coding

Rachel Ignotofsky expands upon some of the most powerful STEM women throughout history in her book “Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers who Changed the World”.  One woman in particular to highlight for Women’s History Month is Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper.

In the year of 1934, computer scientist, navy admiral, and female pioneer Grace Hopper earned her PhD in mathematics from Yale University, and shortly after, began her work as a mathematics professor at Vassar College (a historically women-oriented college). Her brilliant mathematical mind helped to make strides for the United States WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) program once we entered World War II in 1943. Soon after entering WAVES, Hopper was referred to Harvard University to facilitate programming the “Mark I”, also known as the very first electronic computer.

Grace Hopper, A Woman in STEM
Grace Hopper, Computer Pioneer, Photo by ThoughtCo

Grace Hopper’s brilliance helped her and her team to solve important problems for the war efforts. As if she wasn’t talented enough, after the war, Grace Hopper went on to invent and establish the first-ever computer compiler. Later on, this led to her creating COBOL, the first computer “language”, also known as coding. So, Grace was the pioneer in coding! Of course, coding is very pertinent to celebrating the inventions that allow us to play video games. 

Carol Shaw: A gaming inspiration

Female pioneers like Grace Hopper paved the way for later tech pioneers, such as Carol Shaw. Shaw was one of the first female video game designers and programmers, and in 1978, she established a milestone in her field, being the first woman to program and design a video game (3D Tic-Tac-Toe) for the model2600 Atari. Later, in 1983, her first fully-independent production, the video game Happy Trails, released.

Women in STEM and Gaming
Carol Shaw, Photo by GameSpot

Shaw’s video game Happy Trails released in a difficult economic year, but Shaw still prevailed and chased her passion. 

It is important to look at female heroes and inspirations like Grace Hopper and recognize how their legacy long ago laid a foundation for later pioneers like Carol Shaw. Other historical and notable video game women featured in this Lifewire article include figures like Roberta Williams, Dona Bailey, Anne Westfall, Jane Jensen, and even the first and oldest female competitive gamer, Doris Self.

The Strong Museum, in Rochester, New York is devoted to the history of video games and play. The Museum of Play does a great job of celebrating women in video games year-round. The HeR Interactive collection is a featured exhibit. It holds an important place in women in video game history with Nancy Drew as an early video game female protagonist. Their history of supporting a diverse team of female game creators and marketers has continued for over 20 years.

Nancy Drew Games in the Strong Museum in Rochester New York
The Strong Museum’s display of Nancy Drew: Stay Tuned for Danger; Photo from Reddit

So, this March, as we celebrate International Women’s Day and National Women’s History Month in the year of 2021, we celebrate past and present women in tech, past and present women in video games, and the past and present female pioneers who have contributed to the work in their field. Knowledge of these leaders inspires all women to get excited about being women in STEM and women in video games at an early age. HeR Interactive will always promote, represent, and encourage strong young women to learn, play, and experience the exciting worlds of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.

 

~SB

Posted in: HeR News Blog

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

-->

Follow Us