A closer look at the gender pay gap in IT

By Katy Bairstow

In a guest post for Ada Lovelace Day I mentioned the gender pay-gap within the technology sector and gave the number of women in tech as a fifth of the technology workforce. Today I thought I’d follow up with a post talking about those numbers and where they’ve come from in a bit more detail.

Last year BCS, e-skills UK and Intellect, with support from the Department of Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR), produced the ‘Women in IT Scorecard‘ to create a sound factual basis for discussion of the gender difference in participation within the technology sector.

According to the report UK’s IT workforce (those who work in the IT sector, as well as IT professionals who work in other industries) in 2008 totalled 1,213,000 people, of which 274,000 (23%) were women. This was down from 2001 when the total workforce numbered 1,253,000 and included 337,000 women (27%). So overall the workforce has shrunk by 3.19% between 2001 and 2008, but the female proportion of the workforce has reduced by 18.69% in the same period.

The difficult task for Intellect, BCS et al is to discover why there was a disproportionate drop in the number of women. In the previous post I also mentioned the gender pay-gap, this too is covered in the ‘Women in IT Scorecard’. The Office of National Statistics puts the pay difference between men and women (hourly rate, excluding overtime) at around 12% for 2009. For UK IT professionals, the gap across age ranges is 13%. The largest gap is in the 40-49 age range, where the pay gap leaps to a massive 30%.

Having such a large gap at the age when an individual generally is at the peak of her career is hardly likely to encourage women to remain as an IT professional when they can take their transferable skills to management, recruitment or journalism. Taken together, the industry faces some key challenges in the next few years, but it’s made a good start by gathering the data and publishing the ‘Women in IT Scorecard’ and I look forward to seeing this year’s data when it’s published.

Katy has worked in the IT industry for over a decade for companies like EDS. She currently works as a freelance web designer and developer and blogs infrequently at whatkatydid.org.You can follow her on Twitter @katybairstow.