European Commission launches big push for women in IT

The European Commission has launched a push to encourage more women to work in IT to increase the capacity of the workforce and tackle skill shortages.

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The European Commission has launched a push to encourage more women to work in IT to increase the capacity of the workforce and tackle skill shortages.

The proportion of women IT graduates in Europe is falling, especially compared with other regions of the world – although figures for women in IT vary widely between European states. The EU is seeking to encourage more women into IT, which contributes 5.3% of Europe’s GDP, to tackle a shortfall of qualified professionals that is expected to reach 300,000 by 2010.

Speaking on International Women’s Day yesterday, EU commissioner for information society and media Viviane Reding said: “Getting more women into ICT careers would be a force for change and a major boost for this key economic sector in Europe.

“With Europe facing a skills shortage in this sector, we must encourage more women to study ICT subjects and to take up a career in this field, so as to increase capacity of the workforce and to tap into women's creative potential.”

Yesterday the commission released video diaries by six young women who “shadowed” a senior woman IT professional for the day to find out more about their careers, in a pilot exercise backed by BT, Cisco, Infineon, Motorola and Nokia.

The EU has also begun a detailed study of women in the IT industry, with findings expected in October.

The proportion of women computer graduates across Europe has fallen from 25% in 1998 to 22% in 2006 – figures that compare poorly with Canada (27%), the US (28%) and South Korea, where 38% of IT graduates are women.

But prospects for women vary widely across Europe, with women making up just 6% of the IT workforce in Luxembourg but 41% in Lithuania.

Figures released by learning and skills council E-skills UK in February showed that the proportion of women in the UK’s IT workforce had fallen to a six-year low, accounting for just 19% of the IT workforce, down from 24% in 2001. Women also earn less than their male peers in all occupational groups except software professionals.

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