Girls who play video games are 3 times more likely to study a STEM degree

Research using Next Steps has found that girls who were gamers at age 14 were 3 times more likely to study physical science, technology, engineering and maths (PSTEM) degrees at university, compared to their non-gamers.

What we asked you

When you were visited in Years 9 and 10 at school, you were asked how often you played video games. At age 18, you told us about whether you went to university, and what you studied.

What the researchers found

Researchers at the University of Surrey found that girls who were heavy gamers (those who spent over nine hours a week gaming) were more likely to study a PSTEM degree.

In fact, all female study members who studied PSTEM subjects were identified as gamers. Those of you who were not into gaming were over twice as likely to do a biological science, technology, engineering and maths (BSTEM) degree, three times more likely to study Social Sciences, and four times more likely not to go to university at all than to do PSTEM degrees. The link between gaming and degree choice remained even after taking into account other factors that might have affected your choice of subject at university, such as ethnicity, socioeconomic background, prior academic achievement, and how good you felt you were at the subject.

The connection between gaming and degree choice was not as strong for boys. Among boys, there were similar amounts of gamers regardless of degree type.

Why this research matters

Very few girls pursue PSTEM degrees at university. Dr Anesa Hosein, the lead author of the study, said: “Despite the pioneering work of people like Jocelyn Bell Burnell and Daphne Jackson, the first female Physics professor, there are still too few female PSTEM role models for young women.

However, our research shows that those who study PTSEM subjects at degree level are more likely to be gamers, so we need to encourage the girl gamers of today to become the engineering and physics students and pioneers of tomorrow.

“It therefore makes sense, in the short-term, that educators seeking to encourage more take up of PSTEM subjects should target girl gamers, as they already may have a natural interest in these subjects. We need to get better at identifying cues early to recognise which girls may be more interested in taking up PSTEM degrees.”

Find out more about this research

 This research was carried out by Dr Anesa Hosein at the University of Surrey. Read the full paper and the press release from the University of Surrey

The research was also covered by The Conversation.