New evidence emerged this week that employers are failing to attract women into the top IT jobs.
Women IT professionals are in jobs that pay an average of 15% less than the average male salary, a study of more than 2,000 Computer Weekly readers has revealed.
The findings have raised fears that the brightest women are shunning careers in IT at a time when the struggle to recruit skilled staff could affect vital e-business projects.
"The problem is getting worse," said John O'Sullivan, skills consultant at the E-Skills National Training Organisation. "It is not a case of IT employers selecting out women. It is a case of women selecting out IT. They see it as a nerdy, techie profession."
Nearly 33% of male IT workers are in the top earning bracket compared to only 18% of women. And 41% of women are in the lowest paid jobs compared to only 25% of the men.
On average, male IT workers can expect to earn about £36,000 a year, while women command only £30,000, the research by the National Computing Centre, Computer Weekly and Gateway revealed.
There are far fewer women in the highly paid IT consulting roles and a greater number in lower paid rolls, such as support and IT training.
A greater proportion of women IT professionals also work in organisations that offer the lowest salaries, such as local government and education.
The survey shows there is little difference between the academic abilities of male and female IT workers. However, women are more likely to have arts or language degrees, while more men have engineering or science degrees.
Separate research from the E-Skills National Training Organisation shows that women are less likely to work in IT than they were five years ago, with the overall proportion of women in the industry dropping from 30% to 25%.
The decline has prompted Andersen Consulting, IBM, careers advisors, E-Skills NTO and other organisations to begin a research programme to attract more female graduates into the profession.
The project, entitled 21st Century Women, aims to fill the skills gap by producing women-friendly careers literature, providing female IT role models, and arranging IT workshops with employers.
This was first published in October 2000