Sex discrimination rife in IT, says report

Gender discrimination against women is rife in the IT sector, a report says.

Gender discrimination against women is rife in the IT sector, a report says.

The survey of 330 women by IT and telecoms recruiter Greythorn found :

  • 85% of women in IT believe gender discrimination is a problem in the sector
  • 70% of women feel their gender is a barrier to success
  • Three times more IT professionals prefer a male boss
  • 51% of women employees in the IT and telecoms sector say they have been victims of gender discrimination.

The report said more than 60% of all IT workers say discrimination exists, but half admitted they would do nothing to stop it.

Paul Winchester, managing director of Greythorn said, the IT and telecoms industry had a history of gender discrimination.

Intellect, the ICT sector trade association, did not respond to calls for comment.

Winchester said, "While more than half of women say they have suffered as a result of gender discrimination, 62% of the workforce says it happens, but they aren't bothered by it. This shows a stone-age attitude."

Discrimination had made working in the IT industry an unfair and often deeply frustrating experience for women, he said.

"When the Sex Discrimination Act was passed in 1975, women represented 37% of the UK workforce. Since then this has climbed to 46%. But at present only 24% of IT workers are women, an increase from 20% in 2006. If this rate of growth continues, it will take 54 years for women in IT to achieve parity with the rest of the labour market," Winchester said.

Winchester said many of the highest paid IT jobs are in the City, but only 13% of the workforce there are women. "It's clear that women face an even larger barrier of discrimination when going for the most high-profile and lucrative jobs," he said.

The survey found that both male and female IT and telecoms workers would prefer a male boss. Only 8% of men and 6% of women said they would prefer to report to a woman.

Almost half (49%) of women felt they were discriminated against during the promotion process. When asked how gender discrimination manifested itself, 78% of women and 45% of men said it included being overlooked for promotion.

Despite the discrimination, respondents felt there has been some improvement. Only 11% felt that the problem had become worse since 2006 and almost half felt that it had improved. However, they did not expect much to change in the next five years.

Winchester warned that the Equality Act 2010 had given employees greater powers to challenge their employers over gender discrimination.

"There is a perception that IT and telecoms is a male-dominated industry and this has become deeply ingrained," he said. He said HR departments needed to ensure that women were treated the same way as men.

Equally, women and men who suffered discrimination had to ensure that they understood and used their legal rights to challenge the status quo, he said.

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