Girls Who Game uses Minecraft, mentors to increase STEM interest in young women

Girls Who Game uses Minecraft, mentors to increase STEM interest in young women

Why gaming? Dell Technologies, which is headquartered in Round Rock, teamed with Microsoft and Intel in 2019 to create an extra-curricular program called Girls Who Game (GWG). Through it, the companies hope to create a more inclusive tech industry. Young girls either lack access to education tools or have the perception that STEM is better suited for boys, Dell states. So, the company turned to video games.

In Papulkas’ role as a female educator with Dell, she continues to see the narrative, “Okay, c’mon girls, stay in STEM,” which has been a struggle. (Dell Technologies, Microsoft, Intel)

“The reality is 50% of our population are female in the workforce, but only around 20% are in STEM-related fields. Unfortunately, those numbers are on the decline. And when we get to visible minorities, those numbers go down even lower to 11%,” Papulkas said. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

The tech companies want to develop the girls’ tech skills, achieve digital literacy, and inspire them to become change-makers. “As a woman, as a mom of two girls, I want to see girls involved here and engaged so that when we walk into a meeting space or when decisions are being made about new technologies or problems that we’re experiencing, we have 50% of a voice. We have women in there helping to make those decisions and we need to start now if we want to have this happen,” Papulkas said. She said this past fall, clubs created an “eatery of the future.” The girls focused on hunger issues and clean drinking water in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic — how to make the eatery sustainable, accessible and inclusive.

The girls look at the United Nations’ sustainable development goals as course material and motivation, Papulkas said. Its GWG program uses a specific one, “Minecraft: Education Edition,” as a tool to teach the girls communication, collaboration, creativity and critical thinking skills.

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