Government fund to bring women into IT

Trade and Industry Secretary, Patricia Hewitt, is offering IT organisations a share of a £1m fund to make their workplaces more...

Trade and Industry Secretary, Patricia Hewitt, is offering IT organisations a share of a £1m fund to make their workplaces more attractive to women workers.

Speaking at the Department of Trade and Industry's Women in IT conference Hewitt said that IT organisations needed help in reorganising their working hours so they could tap the pool of women workers, including those returning to work, who are massively under-represented in the IT industry.

"The current situation is bad for women. It means they are missing out on opportunities to earn the higher wages available in the IT sector. It's also bad for business and bad for the economy," she said.

IT companies will be invited to bid for up to £55,000 in consultancy fees to help them develop more family friendly policies to attract, retain and develop women in the workplace.

Applications from small businesses are being particularly encouraged. Stephen Alambritis from the Federation of Small Businesses urged companies to take advantage of the scheme.

"In the IT sector it is not uncommon to work all hours and under enormous pressure," he said.

Alambritis believes that when a small company is starting out the employer often passes on a long hour work ethos to his staff.

"The staff themselves are often reluctant to ask for more flexibility so it works well for the company to get independent advice from consultants".

The Fund meets the costs of the consultancy advice with money being allocated depending on how many days consulting a company requires. The average funding per project is estimated at £35,000.

The additional £1m made available for the IT sector comes from the DTI's three-year programme, worth £7m, to address the skill needs of hi-tech industries.

The deadline for applications to the fund is 8th March 2002.

Further information
DTI work-life balance: www.dti.gov.uk/work-lifebalance

Read more on IT for small and medium-sized enterprises (SME)

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