Navigating the Challenges of Women in STEM & Gaming
For at least a decade now, women have been underrepresented in STEM and gaming. Though this landscape is shifting - there is still a long way to go, especially for women of color and people from LGBTQIA+ communities. Not only are these industries (science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and gaming) cutthroat, but they can be gender-imbalanced and racially discriminatory, as female-identifying students and women of color find it difficult to get support and funding to study STEM subjects.
With the rise of gaming technology, hiring trends for women in gaming, especially female developers, aren't much brighter. Despite a recent study showing that in the U.S. in 2022, women made up 48% of gamers. So, though women make up a sizable chunk of the audience and purchasing power, a large chunk of us don't have a say in the boardrooms and offices.
So, it leads to the question, when will these industries catch up and catch on? Here we will be opening an important discussion into the challenges of women in STEM and gaming industries, as well as resources and organizations fighting for equality.
Navigating the STEM Field From a Woman's Perspective
Men have long dominated STEM fields, and despite significant progress, women still have to face unique challenges as they navigate the professional world of STEM, like the lack of representation, which can lead to imposter syndrome and discourages many from even getting into STEM fields in the first place.
When women are encouraged to enter the fields, gender pay gaps can be a huge issue, as men are often paid more than women. Some research has found that there is only a small difference in pay for entry-level positions for women and men. Concluding that this gender pay gap could be because of the underrepresentation of women in senior positions. For example, according to statistics, 53% of female engineers disappear from the professional registry at 35 years of age compared to only 17% of men.
According to another study, the confidence gap could be fuelling the challenges women face in STEM, as they analyzed the societal-held beliefs of what men and women can and cannot do could be to blame.
Despite the challenges women face in STEM, the percentage of female graduates with core STEM degrees is steadily growing. In 2023, 26% of females studied STEM-related degrees, while the female STEM workforce in the USA stands at around 24% – so things are slowly shifting.
The Gaming Industry (how diverse is it really?)
For the last decade or so, the gaming industry has boomed. Its market size is estimated at around USD 245.10 billion in 2023, which is expected to grow as technology advances and online gaming becomes even more popular.
For a long time, gaming has been criticized for its lack of diversity and representation. Though the representation of diverse characters in-game may have improved, the story is very different behind the scenes.
Historically video games were designed by men for men. So-called boy toys like Nintendo back in the 80s and early 90s pushed marketing campaigns to showcase video gaming as predominantly for boys, specifically white boys with disposable income. Therefore fewer people who didn't fit that target market got into the industry.
Inclusive Resources & Organizations for Women in STEM
While the landscape is slowly shifting, more organizations are pushing for greater diversity. Pioneering leaders like Games for Change are at the forefront of fighting to disarm the barriers for people from marginalized communities to access equal opportunities and jobs in Science, Technology, and Engineering, and they're not the only ones.
The following organizations, foundations, and resources play a pivotal role in supporting and empowering women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics):
National Science & Technology Medals Foundation
Striving to build inclusive STEM communities across the USA, NSTMF believes in supporting unrepresented undergraduate students to pursue a career in STEM through its InStem Mentorship Program.
Rewriting the Code
This all-female-led organization is all about creating spaces for women to feel supported and empowered throughout their tech careers and studies. They also offer partnerships, advice, and support from a wide range of leaders in the field, as well as financial support for women in tech.
Society of Women Engineers
SWE is a leader in providing women in engineering with the same opportunities as their male counterparts. It fights for Advocate for Empowerment Program is an industry equality and gender parity initiative
500 Women Scientists
500 Women Scientists is a global grassroots organization whose mission is to make scientific spaces anti-racist and anti-patriarchal. Its programs cover a wide range of important topics, focusing on three major goals - changing the face of science, holding institutions accountable, and building collective power.
Organizations for Black Women in STEM
Black Girls Do STEM
Envisage a new normal where the lack of representation in STEM is diminished. That's the aim of Black Girls Do STEM - equal representation of black women across all STEM fields by providing a seven-year continuous pathway for black girls from 6th grade to 12th.
Black Girls Code
Black Girls Code, founded in 2011, runs programs in partner organizations, schools, and cities across the USA and South Africa, introducing computer programming to thousands of young girls aged 7-17 who otherwise would not be given access.
Black Sisters in STEM
Investing in black female futures is important beyond a college degree, helping young black women succeed in a professional STEM environment, from professional development, personal development, financial advice, and accessible technology courses.
Black Girl Gamers
Challenging gaming companies to do better for black women is the ethos of BGG. They grew from a Facebook group in 2015 and now have 8,000+ black women globally joining in with a shared passion for inclusive gaming.
Resources for Hispanic Women in STEM
Latinas in STEM
Life-long STEM support for women is the aim of Latinas in STEM. Their pipeline with local schools and organizations across the US spans grade K to professional development after college.
The HSI-STEM program aims to improve Latino and low-income students' educational opportunities and academic achievement, particularly in STEM fields. It will provide culturally relevant learning opportunities and academic support.
LatinX in Gaming
Latinx in Gaming is a platform dedicated to promoting and amplifying Latinx voices and representation in the gaming industry, fostering diversity and inclusivity through advocacy and community-building initiatives.
Personal Growth Resources for Women in STEM
Advancing Women in Tech
Advancing Women in Tech specializes in mentoring and helping women gain leadership roles by curating courses, training materials and giving women access to a network of experienced women leaders, mentors, and speakers.
Pathways to Science
Pathways to Science provides excellent resources and opportunities for individuals interested in STEM, helping them navigate their options for creating a bold, new career in science.
Million Women Mentors
Million Women Mentors is a global network dedicated to empowering young girls and women in the STEM fields. They aim to connect communities, institutions, and corporations to drive local mentoring efforts for permanent change.
Want to learn how to code in an inclusive environment? She Codes is a fantastic online platform that offers coding workshops and resources, helping women learn and master in coding.
STEM Mentorship Programs
Rewriting The Code
Rewriting the Code is an organization focused on giving women the tools they need to excel to go further in their careers and thrive in technology-based jobs. On their site, they offer mentorships and a community to support women's careers in tech.
Women in Tech Global Mentorship
Women in Tech Global Mentorship is an amazing platform dedicated to supporting women in the technology industry through resources and networking opportunities. They continue to advocate for gender diversity, inclusion, and equality for the LGBTQIA+ movement.
Women in STEM
WomenInSTEM.org is a website that first and foremost, aims to promote and support women in STEM fields. They provide resources, information, and an rich community through their website to encourage and empower career success.
Women in Engineering ProActive Network
WEPAN is an organization committed to improving diversity and inclusion in STEM, specifically engineering. They provide a wide array of resources, as well as support for those challenging diversity norms.
Diversity Resources for Educators
Equality across the globe is the mission of Equal Everywhere. Though this isn't strictly an organization specifically for STEM, gender and racial discrimination is a worldwide issue in many fields.
Progress in STEM may have improved over the last decade, but many women still face significant barriers. Scientista aims to improve the rate of young girls interested in science and nurture this passion to Ph.D.
LSA Inclusive Teaching for STEM Courses
For educators looking to make their work more inclusive, the University of Michigan has prepared a huge database resource and activity guides to help you learn more about inclusion in STEM and activities to shift equality in your classrooms.
Useful Resources for Women in Gaming
Women in Games
Women in Games is dedicated to promoting gender equality and inclusivity in the gaming industry through advocacy, networking, and support for women professionals.
Video gaming and streaming are great tools for combating social isolation through play. However, a lot of the time, accessibility isn't at the forefront of the priorities - Able Gamers is determined to change this.
Global Gaming Women
GGW offers yearly scholarships to females interested in gaming and ongoing leadership development courses for women in gaming.
For female gamers who need a little bit of support, CheckPoint offers mental health support to the gaming community. It is run by health professionals who understand the industry.
Game Dev Mentors
Game Dev Mentors is a marketplace connecting gamers and mentors for one-on-one coaching. You can get career advice from in-company experts, ideas for transitioning into gaming, and many other connections.
What are Countries Around the World Doing About Representation (in STEM and Beyond)
Countries worldwide are taking various initiatives to address representation in STEM and beyond. Places like the UK have started implementing policies to increase diversity and inclusivity in educational institutions and the workplace, while organizations like Tech Nation continue to strive for diversity in Tech industries.
Governments worldwide are also partnering with organizations and industries to create awareness campaigns, offer scholarships and grants, and provide mentorship programs to strengthen underrepresented groups pursuing STEM. Efforts in gaming companies are being made to break gender stereotypes and provide equal opportunities as more companies work on their DEI hiring practices. For instance, Scrabble word finder enthusiasts might be interested to know that Hasbro (who produces the popular word game in the U.S. and Canada) has consistently been recognized for its ethical practices and drive to improve its DEI practices, pledging to grow its female representation in leadership roles in the future. And they aren't the only ones, as more companies focus efforts on inclusivity and diversity in the workplace worldwide.
Worldwide Organizations for Equality in STEM
- The Royal Institution - provides talks and debates on increasing equality in STEM.
- STEMettes - an award-winning social enterprise inspiring young girls, women, and non-binary people to pursue STEM careers.
- Spanish LOMLOE law - Spain’s Education law outlines STEM competencies, providing equal opportunities for all young people in an ever-changing world.
- Asante Africa Foundation - empowering East African youth to succeed in the global economy.
- Global STEM Toolkit - pioneering STEM resources for educators, STEM centers, and mentors to successfully implement STEM programs worldwide.
About the author
Sarah Perowne is a language and education specialist with over 10 years of experience in teaching and content creation. She has worked with students of all ages in various teaching methods, including those with disabilities and ASD. She sports an acute knowledge and skillset in teaching English as a second/foreign language (ESL) English Language Arts and creating content for online teaching resources, articles, and podcasts.