Number of women in IT industry falls by almost half in four years

The number of female IT professionals in the UK has fallen from 100,000 to just over 53,700 in four years, despite...

The number of female IT professionals in the UK has fallen from 100,000 to just over 53,700 in four years, despite government-backed initiatives to encourage more women into IT.

Between 1999 and 2003, the proportion of women in the UK IT workforce fell by almost 50% from 21% to 12.5%, following years of steady growth, an international research project led by the University of Cambridge has revealed.

The project's findings raise concerns that employers in the UK are failing to attract half the potential workforce at a time when the market for skilled IT workers is becoming increasingly competitive.

"There is nothing intrinsic in IT work that should say it is a male domain. It is intellectual work, not physical work or the type of work that demands male-only skills. It would appear there are substantial obstacles for women working in IT," said Kerry Platman of the faculty for social and political sciences at the University of Cambridge.

The study revealed that the lack of part-time work available for women in the IT profession is one of the main reasons why they are deterred from the profession.

The proportion of part-time IT workers in the UK, at 5.3%, is lower than the proportion in Germany (8.6%) and the Netherlands (16%).

Only 16.9% of female IT professionals work part time, compared with 37% in the Netherlands and 19% in Germany.

The research found that most women in the IT profession are aged between 24 and 44, suggesting that older women may be leaving the profession.

"We have a lot to learn from our colleagues in the Netherlands, where they have a lot more part-time working, and even in Germany there is much more part-time IT work than in the UK. For some reason the UK industry is male dominated and full-time," said Platman.

The research revealed that there was a steady growth in the number of women working in the IT profession until the dotcom bubble burst. From that point numbers began to decline. Further work is needed to determine the causes, said Platman.

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