Woman's inspirational journey to help girls make games

SAN MATEO, Calif. (KGO) -- Laila Shabir is the creator of Girls Make Games and grew up in a boys' world as a kid in the United Arab Emirates.

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"My childhood was very different from that of a lot of girls here in America. I had two lives growing up. I had one at home and one outside. The one at home was liberating."

Imagine being in a world where basic things like going outside to play or going to an arcade as a girl was frowned upon.

"I wanted it very badly," Laila said.

But her parents, Pakistani immigrants, encouraged her to chase her dreams.

"I was the first girl to go to college. I have friends who are doctors but are now homemakers because they knew even if they got a medical degree, they would have to be a homemaker. So they did it for themselves and didn't practice."

After graduating from MIT, Laila went on to make educational video games.

But as she attended conferences across the country, she couldn't help but wonder -- where are all the girls?

"I was really disheartened. I wanted to meet girls who play games and talk to them and learn from them. I kept asking why there are no women and why aren't they applying. The response was that they didn't think girls played games or wanted to make games."

Women make up only 12 percent of the gaming industry, yet nearly 50 percent of gamers a women.

"I wanted to get the message out that learning STEM is cool! Do what you want," Laila said.

Now, she's helping thousands of girls around the world in eight cities learn how to make games with Girls Make Games. It's changing the industry -- and their lives.

"You can learn all these skills without knowing you're learning. You're exploring and expressing. I think we're going to be doing this for a while."

To learn more about Laila and Girls Make Games, click here.
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