The Girl Scouts may want to add a Gamer merit badge to their STEM program. A new study from the University of Surrey in the U.K. found that girls between the ages of 13-14 who identified as “heavy gamers”—that is, clocking in over nine hours of playing time a week—were three times more likely to pursue a STEM degree compared to girls who were non-gamers.
The study, published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior, also found that 100% of the girls who were already in STEM programs identified as gamers.
The same cannot be said of boys studying in the STEM fields. While girls seemed to relate their interest in STEM to being gamers, boys identified themselves as gamers or not regardless of what field they were studying, leading the researchers to suspect that boys still experience far less pressure to conform to the gamer stereotype if they were studying a STEM degree.
Researcher Anesa Hosein, who led the study, thinks this correlation can help identify young women who may be interested in STEM early and get them on track to a career in the sciences.
“Our research shows that those who study PSTEM [physical science, technology, engineering, and math] 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,” she said in a statement. “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.”