Opinion

Time to bridge the IT gender gap

Women make up just 24% of the IT workforce - and just 7% of the IT management layer. Put another way, if the same number of female graduates as males went into ICT, it would go a long way to resolving the technology skills crisis.

Only the most fervent misogynist could fail to see that bringing women into IT is a key challenge for UK firms. But the task for IT managers is to go beyond platitudes and good intentions and show leadership in action.

The skills crisis is not uniform. Demand for basic client-server skills is starting to decline. The big gaps lie in two areas: competent programmers with Web-related skills; and competent project managers who can manage people and business processes as well as development work.

The real challenge is in Web skills. E-developers work unsocial hours, and that can rule out women with children. Added to that is the "laddish" culture which makes some workplaces intolerable to females. On top of that is the dog-eat-dog ethos that seems to develop wherever employers rely heavily on a large numbers of contractors.

Today, on International Women's Day, IT chiefs should take a good look at their own departments, and ask whether a combination of work practice and informal culture is preventing recruitment and retention of women.

There are any number of government task forces and initiatives aimed at getting women into IT. But it is up to individual firms to make the profession into a career of choice for women.

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This was first published in March 2001

 

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