So how do we fix this games/computing gender problem?

I posted a short reply to a post on facebook earlier by David Renton on how to get more women into games courses and wanted to compose this post in order to elaborate further. So how do we solve the problem then of getting more girls into games or even computing in an ideal world we stop genderising things whether they are toys, jobs even hobbies. It won’t happen overnight or even at all however it’s a start right?

OK so it’s not the ideal world how can we help change the notion that Computing & Games are for boys. I’m using these since that’s my specific area however I’m sure there will more subject examples dominated by one or the other gender and seen to be girly/boyish. Education I believe plays a part in this and helping demystify some stereotypes. I have for 6 years been researching in primary schools and I firmly believe this is where we need to start. Children learn from an early age and they learn from us. It’s our responsibility as adults to show them the opportunities out there and to show that no matter their gender they can do anything. So why don’t we teach them then how to make games in schools (yes it’s part of our Scottish school curriculum from Primary 5 onwards) and it’s been on my radar for the past 6 years. I’ve been trying on my own to get more children in Glasgow (there are other folk doing fab things across the country) into games by teaching them how to make games using Scratch – in school lessons I should add.  My research focused on working with nearly 400 children between the ages of 8-11 and teaching them and their teachers how to make games. The children worked in pairs and not once did I ever hear/see anything gender related towards the games that were produced. The only gender issue I encountered was a couple of P6 or 7 classes who when told they would be working in mixed gender pairs gave the ever so awkward pre-teen look of how can I work with a boy/girl but after 2 minutes that was forgotten about and awesome games were soon made.

Primary is a very important stage of education as it forms children’s opinions on subjects they like and dislike. By giving children positive experiences of games construction & computing in general. However this then needs to be reinforced throughout secondary school also and children need to be able to have the opportunity to carry on seamlessly from primary to secondary. This is where I had the idea of an event that lets primary and secondary schools work together. A Mini Game Jam – a game jam is where folk get together for 48 hours in the one space and form a team and well, make a game. My idea was shrunk down for the school day. I envisaged that after teaching the children during my research they would have some game making knowledge – enough to make a small game – to be able to work in a team and have some fun while doing so. Hence the Mini Game Jam was born. I am now into year 4 of the event which schools are now starting to see the benefits of. Last year I worked with 300 children over 6 events to spend a day working on a game based on a given theme. By putting the children into mixed teams and not making a fuss about it they worked together side by side as it should be. By showing primary and secondary schools how both can work together for one little part of the curriculum it might help sow some seeds.

Given what I’ve seen during my years of research in schools I don’t believe solely in “women into x, y or z” events. However they may be a short term fix but we need to think long term for these ideas to stick. Also OK why not women only classes for getting more women thinking about the subject I dont mean full on the whole 4 years or that but getting an introduction would maybe be helpful. I chose my subject at university knowing that yes it would probably be male dominated but at the end of the day my choice was based on what I wanted to learn not the male/female ratio in the class.

There isn’t an overnight “Women into “ course and suddenly uptake of FE/HE even Nationals/Highers goes through the roof, no this is a long road and we all must be in it together to work and change attitudes from early years onwards otherwise we will still be having this same old conversation in 20-30 years time.

I know I’m working at it are you?

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