A campaign to encourage qualified female IT professionals who have left the industry to return was launched last week.
The UK Resource Centre for Women in Science, Engineering and Technology's Return campaign is part-funded by the European Social Fund. It aims to bring 1,000 female professionals back to the sector over the next three years.
The number of women working in IT in the UK has fallen dramatically from 100,000 to less than 54,000 in just four years, according to the Resource Centre. Research shows the proportion of women in the IT workforce fell from 21% to 12.5% between 1999 and 2003, it said.
Jane Butcher, manager of the Return campaign, said, "Women lost out, particularly with the downturn in the IT industry a few years ago.
"That is the kind of thing that happens in lots of other redundancy situations - it is not intended to be a gender thing, but women can be seen as more marginal."
The Return campaign will offer a referral helpline, pointing women towards training and networking opportunities and linking them with mentors from the IT industry.
As part of the campaign, the Open University has launched a free online course for women returners, and high-level IT courses for women who want to update their skills will be offered through the Equalitec project run by campaign partner organisation Portia.
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This was first published in May 2005