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Gender gap threatens UK’s job prospects in IT

Thu, 19 Jun 2014
A continuing decline in the number of women entering the IT profession is threatening the UK’s ability to meet the forecast need for 129,000 entrants a year to IT and telecoms specialist roles, according to the Women in IT Scorecard.

Published by BCS, the Chartered Institute for IT and e-skills UK, the scorecard reveals that the gender imbalance starts at school. Girls account for just 6.5% of those take A-level computing, although they consistently outperform boys in exams.

Worse, although the proportion of girls studying A-level computing and ICT has remained stable, the number of all students taking the courses has fallen by 42% between 2004 ands 2013.

Yet at least 22,600 entrants a year from educational courses are needed by the IT industry, according to a recent forecast by e-skills UK.

The impact of low numbers of girls in computing education is felt in the workplaces of UK plc, where the report states: “From an already low base, female representation within both the IT professions and the IT sector has declined slightly over the past 10 years. By 2013, of 1,129,000 people working as IT specialists in the UK, less than one in six (16%) were women.

“Of the 753,000 people working in the IT sector …  just one in five (20%) were women.”

A comparison with other EU15 nations reveals that female representation in IT roles is slightly below average and lagging well behind Sweden, Finland, Spain, Ireland and Greece, where more than 20% of IT specialists are women.

Introducing the report, the chief executive of e-skills UK, Karen Price OBE, said: “A simple glance around will invariably confirm that men are significantly in the majority in tech workplaces.”

The scale and persistence of the gender imbalance were equally shocking. As with all science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) roles, “misconceptions of tech careers persist – that the work is hard, dull and unsocial”, she said.

She added: “Employers long to recruit more women, but they can only choose from those who put themselves forward, and have the appropriate qualifications.”

Employers believed the key to reducing the gender imbalance lay in schools, colleges and universities, by changing girls’ beliefs, she said.

But, the report reveals, there is a persistent gender imbalance in pay, too. “At £640 per week, the median gross weekly rate of pay for female IT specialists was 16% less than the comparison figure for men working in IT roles (£760) and the recorded level of pay for women IT roles has been consistently below that of male IT specialists in each of the past 10 years.”

The chair of BCSWomen, Gillian Arnold, said: “It is time the leaders of our industry got real about the impact of the gender pay gap on the retention of women in tech.”

Women are more likely to be in technician/engineer grade positions than men (34% versus 20%) and less likely to be in professional or development related roles (46% vs 57%).

However, the proportion of women working at self-employed IT specialists has more than doubled in the past decade, and female representation in specialist IT roles is higher within Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland than in England.
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