New ideas wanted for increasing diversity in IT

Rebecca George is approaching the problem of the gender balance in the IT industry in a new way. It is not just women who are alienated by IT's traditional working culture, she says, but young men too, and something needs to change if the sector is to thrive.

Rebecca George is approaching the problem of the gender imbalance in the IT industry in a new way. It is not just women who are alienated by IT's traditional working culture, she says, but young men too, and something needs to change if the sector is to thrive.

The new chair of the British Computer Society Women's Forum is also a partner at Deloitte.She wants ideas from IT professionals on how they would entice more women and young people into the sector.

"I suspect that part of the problem is to do with the culture of organisations in which people are working," George says. "I donot think it hits just women - I have a feeling that bright, creative, interesting men are leaving the industry as well."

George has been working to increase IT's female contingent since the early 1990s, and says she has tried everything.

"We have been to schools and universities, we have targeted people returning from maternity leave and career breaks, we have looked at why senior women leave the industry, and we have tried to improve IT's image. In that time, the number of women has dropped from 23% of the total workforce to 16%. It is fairly disheartening."

She wants some new ideas, and is hoping a wide-ranging consultation will provide them.

Although the same gender-balance problem exists in other sectors, it seems particularly potent in IT. George says, "My concern is that we need a real mixture of people - attitudes, backgrounds and skills - to maximise the use of IT in an organisation."

And while she doesnot expect a definitive answer, she is hoping that by consulting widely a few new innovative ideas will surface.

"We have tried lots of things to stop it, and we havenot made any progress," George says. "We really need to work out if there is anything we can do."

If you have ideas for increasingly diversity in IT, or for changing workplace cultures, you can e-mail Rebecca George at regeorge@deloitte.co.uk .

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