This Woman Is Fighting Gender Stereotypes by Giving Girls Access to Gaming

image source: Critical Path

Close to half of the gaming population is female, yet they don’t have access to games. Laila Shabir, of educational media company LearnDistrict, is on a mission to solve this problem.

In 2014, she launched the Girls Make Games summer camp so that young women who are underrepresented not only have a place to play but also create their very own games. It has become an educational, social, and empowering experience for them. Plus, it helps combat the stigma that women don’t like gaming. Shabir speaks to this in the new documentary Girls Level Up, produced by Critical Path:

“They don’t get Xboxs for Christmas, they get Barbies or something else, and their brothers get the Xboxs. Even though they have the same expressed interest.”

Shabir has a unique perspective, growing up in a conservative Muslim neighborhood in the Middle East. And when heading to the States, her father told her to live like a young man — which she interpreted, at the time, as living fearlessly. She embraces these experiences to give strength to this new generation of girls.

“By empowering girls with the knowledge, exposure, confidence, and community they need to pursue any career they want, especially in the games industry, we’re striving to create generations that won’t ever have to wonder if they belong,” says Shabir.

Image Source: Critical Path

Girls should be able to pursue whatever they’re passionate about, plus, the gaming industry needs diverse voices. That’s why every girl who goes to Girls Make Games will get exposure to industry leaders, field trips, and educational classes.

It’s an added benefit that these girls have gained so much confidence from attending the camp. Instead of worrying about being teased for their interests, these kids bond over their joint interest and grow stronger together.

Her goal is to reach 1 million girls by 2020. Though that means a lot of long hours, Shabir relays that “it’s work that gets us out of bed excited to begin the day, everyday.”

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