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IT industry fails to break male-only stereotype

Almost half of young people think the technology sector is more suitable for men

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Young people still see the IT industry as better suited to men, according to research.

A study by O2 found that 47% of people aged between 11 and 18 think the tech sector is more suitable for men, while almost half of children aged four to 10 said men are better suited to become engineers.

Almost one-third of young people also said men make better scientists, and only 10% said women were better suited than men to be scientists.

More than a quarter of young people also said the role of UK prime minister was better taken by a man.

Ann Pickering, O2’s HR director and a female board member of the company, said: “It is worrying to see just how deeply ingrained gender stereotypes still are, with many young people still impacted by the archaic ideals that may have held back their parents or grandparents from rewarding roles.”

Pickering pointed out that boys were just as susceptible to gender stereotyping when choosing a career, and more than half of the four to 10-year-olds in the survey thought girls were better suited to jobs such as hairdressing, nursing and being a nanny.

Many observers have said the problem of stereotyping in careers is just as much a problem for men, and that gender roles should be removed for all gender-specific industries.

Gender stereotypes are not the only reason why many girls do not choose a science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) career, and it has been suggested that more visible female role models in the industry would help to change stereotypical views on who should take up tech roles.

O2’s research found parents play a significant role in how children perceive their future careers, with 84% of young people asking their parents for career advice.

But as much as parents are key influencers in the careers their children choose, it is also important to make children aware of the available roles.

Read more about IT careers

  • Women in technology should take more responsibility for advancing their careers, speakers advised at the 2015 everywoman in Technology Leadership Academy.
  • Focusing on the crucial stages of a career in IT is the key to encouraging more women and girls to work in the sector.

More children want to hear from local businesses, with 73% of those in the survey saying they would be willing to hear more about jobs in local industry sectors, despite more than half saying they do not remember hearing from local business people in the past year.

To improve career communication between industry and young people, O2 has partnered with the charity Speakers for Schools, which helps to give UK children access to talks by industry leaders.

Robert Peston, founder of Speakers for Schools, said: “These are shocking findings. It is vital that gender should have no bearing on what our young people choose to do in life.

“Speakers for Schools, which has to date organised 2,500 free talks in state schools, aims in part to help and encourage students to fulfil their potential, whatever their sex, whatever their background.”

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