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Women still turned off and turned away from IT

The UK has made some small steps towards encouraging women to take up IT-related careers, but there is still much to be done according to Intellect

Despite an increased recognition by government and employers of the need to attract and retain more female IT staff, the percentage of women in such roles in the UK has fallen to less than a fifth of the total tech workforce in the past five years.

But the UK is still doing better in terms of redressing the balance than some of its European and international counterparts, according to Department of Trade and Industry (DTI)-sponsored research published by UK IT trade association Intellect.

The number of women working in the IT sector now stands at just 16 per cent and has seesawed between 15 and 19 per cent over the last five years, pointing to the continuation of a worrying decline in female representation, according to Intellect's findings.

Furthermore, the research found that many females are employed in roles at the lower end of the skills and salary spectrum.

The study benchmarked the UK against 33 countries and revealed that the country stands seventh when it comes to the number of women employed in the IT, electronics and communications (ITEC) sectors, when compared with the rest of the EU, Australia, Canada and the US.

But there is still much to be done to increase numbers further, according to Intellect.

"The continuing drop in the number of women in the IT industry, though an international phenomenon, continues to have serious and far reaching implications for the UK economy and can no longer be regarded as just a diversity issue," said Carrie Hartnell, private sector programme manager at Intellect.

"...As an industry we must begin by tackling the cultural barriers, which have prevented the effective recruitment and retention of women. If this is achieved the presence of women in the high-end sectors of the economy will benefit both the industry and the UK."

Women in IT Forum

The forum aims to disseminate best practice, in addition to advising ministers on the initiatives needed to bring about change and the potential impact those programmes are likely to have.

"Key companies in the sector have stepped up to tackle the inequalities which deter women from entering or remaining in the IT industry," said Gillian Arnold, chair of Intellect's Women in IT Forum.

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