Female only computer clubs are to be set up in inner cities areas in a bid to attract more women to pursue IT careers

The joint venture by the Department of Trade and Industry and the Department for Education and Employment is aimed at shedding the nerdy image attached to careers in IT-related jobs.

"Many girls are turned off computers when they are at school because they see them as boring or just for nerds," said employment minister Tessa Jowell. "We want to change that attitude."

It's hoped the clubs will create a virtual learning centre where girls aged eight to 14 can develop hardware and software skills.

"Only 18 percent of people in IT-related professions are women," said learning and technology minister Michael Wills. "Women need to play as much [of] a role as men in this growing industry if the country is going to thrive in the new global knowledge economy."

Although IT companies have some responsibility for ensuring they attract women, they also need to be encouraged from an early age. "If there are no women training in IT, the companies can't possibly attract them," said a DfEE spokesperson.

The DfEE expects the first computer clubs to be opened this autumn.