Study looks to help women in IT

The British Computer Society and the Department of Trade & Industry are among the organisations backing a three-year study to...

The British Computer Society and the Department of Trade & Industry are among the organisations backing a three-year study to find ways of encouraging more women to pursue careers in IT.

A £1.8m research project by Bath's School of Management, supported by European funding, aims to find practical ways to help women continue as IT professionals, and workers in other high-tech fields, after taking a career break to have children.

Between 1999 and 2003, almost 50,000 of the 100,000 women employed in IT left their jobs to find other work, an earlier study by Cambridge University found.

Initial research by Niki Panteli, a researcher at Bath, found that women's IT skills quickly become out of date after a career break.

"The length of time a woman spends away from an industry influences her return. Women who return to work two years after a career break find the industry has moved on. It constantly changes and skills become obsolete. Unless there are training opportunities, these women find it very difficult," said Panteli.

Another problem women face is that IT work, particularly when staff need to work on client sites, or complete major projects to deadline often requires long hours, which makes it difficult to work on a flexitime basis.

"We will be suggesting policies that could be introduced by the government. They may be able to fund training schemes for women returners. The professional associations may be able to introduce support schemes targeted to women returners," said Panteli.

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