Pop stars and the music business are joining forces with industry to encourage more girls to consider the idea of a career in IT.
ITbeat is an initiative from skills body eSkills UK being launched this evening following funding by the Department of Trade and Industry with support from IBM and the British Phonographic Industry.
A competition will give every girl in the country the chance to design a pop website and win an invitation to the world's biggest slumber party on 7 March 2003.
Attempts to use existing female role models to promote and improve the image of IT among girls has had only limited success.
Now eSkills UK is hoping that an association with the pop industry will broaden the appeal of the sector, and address the image of the IT profession as geeky and uncreative.
Research by eSkills UK shows that girls develop negative views of IT between the ages of 11 and 15.
Pop acts LibertyX and Atomic Kitten will be lending their support at tonight's launch, alongside Jack Rider and Michael Greko from EastEnders, and Narinda, one of the contestants from the last series of Big Brother.
Patricia Hewitt, Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, said: "I want to see more girls and women succeed in IT and other science and technology careers.
"An IT industry dominated by men is only using half the available talent and creativity. ITbeat represents an innovative approach to engaging girls in IT at an early age.
"The British pop industry makes a huge contribution to the UK economy and has a huge influence on girls of this age."
IT spending in the UK will increase by £17bn by 2005, creating another 500,000 IT jobs, according to statistics from analyst IDC.
But female representation in the UK's IT sector has fallen dramatically over the past seven years to a low of just over 20 per cent.
Baroness Greenfield, eminent neurobiologist and the first female director of the Royal Institution, said: "Teenaged girls are interested in mobile phones and the internet, but they don't see this as IT.
"To this age group, IT equals computers: the toys of geeks. It's certainly not a career option.
"By equating technology with pop idols, ITbeat is providing girls with the excuse they need to further investigate IT."
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