Even though reports show a sizable difference, almost 30%, of the amount of applications for university places are female; it still remains to be a black hole for women attempting courses leading to a career in the IT sector.
Computer and Technology based sciences combined account for approximately 11% of total courses filled which is fairly low given the technological world we now live in and the constant overflow of technologically based information, news and products that are available to us. The youth generation, both male and female, are very open to the technological world more so than probably any other generation before as they have grown up with it and have enjoyed and understood it on a daily basis. Not only has mobile and computer technology had its place but also the platforms in which we communicate have changed also e.g social media.
So why do the statistics reveal that only 9% of A Level and 15% of University studying within Computer and Technology prove to be female? In turn this means that only 16% of the IT job market is made up of women.
The Chartered Institute for IT also recently revealed that just 14.4% of IT professionals in the UK are women and one in four IT service delivery employees are female.
Bob Clift, Head of Higher Education Programmes at e-skills, explained one of the reasons behind the shortage, “What a lot of women don’t realise is that most IT roles are business focused and are equally applicable to professionals of either sex. The problem the industry still faces is the common perception that IT roles are reserved for ‘geeky’ men but this couldn’t be further from the truth.”
It appears that one of the contributing factors could be to do with education at an early age. Like previous generations common misconceptions about what any sex is ‘acceptably allowed’ to do as a career is still yet to vanish. In fact a recent Ofsted report in April 2011 found that girls in secondary education held conventionally stereotypical views about their access to future careers.
The industry itself needs to express itself more clearly it seems, the very nature of the industry could be better explained and how it is relevant to the business world. IT employees are often required to interact with colleagues within all departments at all levels, very much at the forefront of business Unlike their previous incarnation when hidden in the depths of the office, quiet and often misunderstood talking techo jargon.
Given the fantastic growth in productivity of the last few years and the sector contributing over £81 billion to the UK’s total GVA in 2010, the future looks rosy. This in turn means substantial pay dividends and great career opportunities, which really should be an eye-opener to any prospective student in times when youth unemployment is at an all time high.
Chief Operating Officer at the UK’s largest IT graduate employer FDM, Sheila Flavell, explains, “A major crisis within the IT industry is the IT skills shortage. At FDM we aim to overcome this dilemma by bridging the gap between University and employment for graduates. However without the inclusion of women within the sector it is inevitable that the industry and therefore the rest of the economy will suffer.”
Within her speech on International Women’s Day, European Commission vice president for the Digital Agenda, Neelie Kroes pointed to the importance of strong female role models within the ICT “hall of fame”. She emphasised that the use of such figures would inspire women to branch into the sector and point to “a sign of balance in the sector.”
As with generations before it shows that stereotypical views still exist regardless of the times we live in, and women talent can go unnoticed. However with phenomenal international achievements by women in the workplace there is still good reason to discard with tradition and find female role models in the industry to celebrate and give inspiration to the next pair of stilettos stepping up the ladder.