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Last Updated: Monday, 9 May, 2005, 16:01 GMT 17:01 UK
Women wanted as games programmers
girls playing handheld game
The university wants to persuade girls that coding can also be fun
A UK university is trying to get women to apply for a computer games programming degree.

The University of Derby is launching a programming course and has had 106 applicants - all men.

So it is making a special effort to persuade women that solitary hours in front of a computer screen can be good for their career prospects.

An initial step will be to hold some all-female summer schools, while scholarships are also being explored.

Guns and cars

Acting programme leader, lecturer John Sear, said: "Girls do want to play games but no-one is making games for them."

Lecturer John Sear
The industry sees this big untapped market but they don't know what to do
John Sear
He said there had been some attempts to make, as it were, "pink" games specifically for girls, but with limited success.

But the big industry money went into endless versions of games based on guns and cars which had a greater appeal for boys.

In the US efforts had been made to attract women onto university courses using targeted funding - but that was not legal in the UK, he said.

Derby was still exploring ways of offering them scholarships, perhaps using gifts rather than money, he told the BBC News website.

A number of games companies had expressed an interest in helping.

'Boys' toys'

There were now plenty in web development or technical support roles, Mr Sear said.

But where there were women in the games industry, it tended to be in other fields such as administration and marketing, artwork such as conceptualising or animating models, story-telling or production.

So summer schools were one idea to let young women see what was available - and that programming did not have to be all about "boys' toys".

Gaming clubs were another possibility.

The university wanted to crack the "chicken and egg" problem of boys writing games that boys liked playing, which in turn attracted boys into the industry.

It will also be looking for role models - which might not be so easy.

"I'm a programmer by trade and I know probably several hundred, and I have only ever met one woman," Mr Sear said.

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