University of York bridges industry gender gap

University of York bridges industry gender gap
Seth Tipps

By Seth Tipps

November 4th 2012 at 10:29PM

Percentage of female computer science students double that of women in the game industry

The University of York has been awarded an Athena SWAN for its support of Women in Science.

York has managed to attract a percentage of female computer science students double that of women in the game industry.

"We have a good track record of attracting female students,” York lecturer Christopher Power told Edge.

“We heavily promote IBM’s Women in Technology Day and we have a strategy to increase the number of female students. I’m very proud of that.”

This strategy helps deal with what Power described as one of the biggest problems for women in games and computer science - perception.

“While there is no evidence, there is a perception that computer science is for boys and a lot of that seems to be coming from the games sector,” said Power.

“But we have lots of women coming to ask us about games at open days. That’s especially been the case in the last couple of years.”

Another hurdle for women in computer science is the low number of students studying A-level mathematics, the University has several programmes aimed at changing this.

Though York has no courses that focus on games, this hasn't stopped female students from entering the industry.

"I had a funny idea that I could make something cool, but at the moment I’m more into medical science," said final year student Alina Selega of her decision.

"One of my friends graduated and she went to work at Ninja Theory.”

By keeping games courses off the menu Powers believes the University is ensuring that students are given a strong foundation for innovation rather than forcing them into industry dogmas.

“There’s a danger in creating programmes designed solely for games,” he said.

“You create an artificial environment where people are making games likes those that are out there now. There’s a risk students will not be thinking outside the box. If you want to make games that go beyond what they are now, you need a computer science knowledge base and a background in problem solving.”