Can playing video games influence men’s, and particularly, women’s career aspirations?

An interesting question, and one recently tackled by Erica Giammarco at the University of Western Ontario, and colleagues - concerning whether there was a link between video game preferences and career interests, and the role gender had to play.
Their findings appeared to contest common gender predictions: “the association between gaming tendencies and career interests was stronger for women than men.” Given the many comments made about the lack of women in STEM industries, this link is a very positive one.
Men are from Mars….
The types of games men and women play differ; for example, more men than women prefer first-shooter-type games. The make-up of our brains, that usually invites the typical ‘Men are from Mars, women are from Venus’ comparisons, are different, according to gender. Spatial ability is stronger in men, which could account for the preference for first-shooter games, though Giammarco’s study shows that a person’s spatial ability can be improved through the playing of video games.
The authors of the survey suggested the following: “Gamification could be one way to increase women’s interest in STEM careers. In particular, gamifying training regimens to increase women’s spatial abilities that will see them succeed in STEM-related courses and jobs.”
Although the survey highlights a possible initiative to encourage women into the video industry, is it necessary? 
According to a recent study by the IGDA, the percentage of women working in the industry has seen a sharp rise. In 2009, just 11.5% of the workforce was made up of women, but this figure has doubled in the space of five years; “women make up the fastest growing consumer segment, and the fastest growing niche in its workforce”. Though still under-represented, it’s clear that more and more women are seeing the industry as an attractive career choice as well as a good way to spend their leisure time.
To keep this momentum, developers suggest more need for strong female characters, such as Lara Croft. However, others in the industry argue that Croft is too hyper-sexualised to be a convincing role model for women. Some see her as empowering, others think Croft is, instead, oppressed.
Studies have also shown the career preferences of women within the gaming industry: “Many of the recent gains women have made in the industry appear to have come in artistic work such as character rendering, scene creation and story development.” This could suggest that the more analytical, scientific jobs are still unattractive to women, even when they’re working in the video game industry.
So, how can recruiters encourage more women into the industry?
“Ensure job descriptions are gender inclusive,” says Geraldine Cross, who has 20 years’ experience in HR at companies like Blitz Games, Next and HSBC. Actively searching for new female recruits is necessary, Cross continues, because “there’s a tendency for companies to 'stir the pot' rather than bringing new blood into the market.” Encouraging existing staff to invite their female contacts, through referral initiatives and schemes is also something to try.
It’s a common mantra in business that, if you’re looking to appeal to women with the product you plan to sell, it makes sense to have their viewpoint and contributions on your side of the fence. After all, how can you know what a Venusian wants if you’re a Martian?!
Gravity Games Recruitment operates within the video games industry worldwide and offers a unique approach towards adding value for our clients and candidates in the recruitment process. Contact us on 01302 319 101, or email us at for more information.

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