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Equal Opportunities


Diversity, especially in terms of gender, will be a priority for the employers of IT and Telecoms professionals as gender imbalance is a key issue facing employers. Despite diversity being a priority for employers, the female IT and Telecoms workforce has declined since 1999 and in 2007 was just 25%, compared to 47% across all sectors in the UK. Occupational segregation is a key threat to productivity, competitiveness and choice. 35% of IT and Telecoms entrants from other sectors are female.

Women are also underrepresented on IT-related GCSEs (including Computer Studies and IT) and A Levels (including Computer Studies and ICT). 9% of A Level Computing candidates are female. Although fewer females take IT related subjects at both GCSE and A Level, females outperform males.Only 15% of applicants and acceptances to Computing Science and IT related degree courses are female.

The proportion of female IT and Telecoms professionals is only 18%; this varies slightly between regions at between 15% and 23% of the workforce. Males outnumber females in the IT industry by nearly 4:1 and only one in five IT professionals are female.

Women in IT and Telecoms occupations are more likely than men to be working part-time; 18% compared to 3% of male employees. This is more pronounced in operations (24%) and user support technician (31%) occupations.

Certain occupations have a slightly higher female presence including Operations /User Support Technicians. Only 20% of all managers and senior officials employed in the IT and Telecoms industry are female. Conversely, 76% of administrative and secretarial staff are female. Additionally in the Telecoms industry, female representation is high in the Sales and Customer service occupations, but not in technical Telecoms roles, such as Telecoms engineer which is almost entirely populated by male employees.

Sources: Technology Counts 2008, Women in IT Scorecard 2008, e-skills bulletin (issue 14, quarter 3) 2005, Diversity Statistics provided by e-skills UK 2006 and IT Insights: Trends and UK Skills Implications 2004

For more statistics of women in IT education and training see the UK Resource Centre for Women in science, engineering and technology website.

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Perceptions of the IT industry by women

Current research has revealed some new perceptions of the IT industry, including the beliefs that:

  • a young workforce is an attractive characteristic for young people considering their careers
  • women expect males may feel threatened by the presence of women
  • women do not show enough confidence in their abilities

A further study aimed at uncovering the attitudes of girls aged 13-17 towards study and a career in IT revealed that 27% of respondents would consider a career in IT, 65% found school ICT lessons enjoyable and 40% used computers for games. However, the survey revealed a lack of understanding of the IT career options available:

  • 17% thought that a career in IT would involve general office work
  • 17% thought it would involve general secretarial duties

Although a positive number of girls claimed they would consider a career in IT, there were misconceptions with regard to duties a career in IT would involve, which was attributed to inadequate careers advice.

Source: Diversity Statistics provided by e-skills UK 2005, DTI 2005 and Georgiou 2005

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Globalisation is affecting the age profile of IT and Telecoms professionals. The proportion aged 16-29 has dropped from 32% in 2001 to 21% in 2007 as the sector favours experienced workers from other sectors over young recruits from the education system. 45% of IT and Telecoms professionals are 40 years plus. The IT and Telecoms sector has in some age-groups an imbalance of almost 5 to 1. On average, an IT/Telecoms professional working in the UK is around 37 years old, the average for women is 36. The average age of entrants from other sectors is 35 years.

User Support Technicians, Computer Engineers and Database Assistants are likely to be younger (34 years old). ICT Manager and Telecoms Engineer occupational groups have an average age of 40 years.

Since 2001, within every age category, average weekly pay has increased:

  • 16–29 year olds now earn £440 per week (20% more than they did in 2001)
  • 30–39 year olds earn £655 per week (19% more)
  • 40–49 year olds earn £760 per week (33% more)
  • 50+ year olds earn £770 per week (31% more)

Source: Technology Counts 2008, Profiles of the Industry and Workforce 2008 and Diversity Statistics provided by e-skills UK 2005

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Statistics show that 10% of IT and Telecoms professionals have a disability (as defined by the Disability Discrimination Act) compared to nearly 13% within the UK workforce. The greatest proportion of professionals with a disability is found within the Database assistants/clerks occupations (12%).

Source: Technology Counts 2008 and Profiles of the Industry and Workforce 2008

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The majority of IT and Telecoms professionals (89%) identify themselves as White, compared to 91% across all occupations in the UK. 6% identify themselves as Asian/Asian British, compared to 4% across all occupations.

A higher than average proportion of IT Modern Apprentices are from ethnic minority backgrounds. Asians have a significantly higher representation on IT related higher education courses than on higher education courses overall and than other ethnic minorities on IT courses. This higher representation of Asians is also reflected in the IT professional workforce.

Sources: Technology Counts 2008, Diversity Statistics provided by e-skills UK 2006 (based on Labour Force Survey, January – March 2006)

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Websites dealing with equal opportunity issues

AbilityNet (Championing IT for people with disabilities) – Website covering courses, careers, together with advice and information IT accessibility and adapting individual PCs.

Athena Project – The project aims to advance and promote the careers of women in science, engineering and technology (SET) in higher education and research to achieve a significant increase in the number of women recruited to top posts. Athena works in partnership with universities, research councils and SET professional and learned societies.

Computer Clubs for Girls – Computer Clubs for Girls is an out-of-school club, for girls aged 10-14, created and operated by e-skills UK. An initial pilot in the South East was supported by SEEDA and the DfES subsequently funded a national roll out. The club provides a ‘not school’ and fun environment where girls learn skills across a wide variety of IT fields – including graphics, animation, databases, spreadsheets, publishing, programming and web design. Clubs are supported by donations of software from a range of applications manufacturers. Evaluations of the club members and club facilitators indicate strongly both an increase in cross-curricular use of IT and a more positive perception of IT as a potential career. For more information visit the CC4G website or the e-skills website.

Equalitec – Advancing Women – Website designed to improve the levels of recruitment and retention of women in Information Technology, electronics and communications (ITEC) industries. It is a platform in which women in ITEC can communicate.

Women into Science and Engineering (WISE) – A campaign run by the Engineering and Technology Board (ETB) aimed at encouraging and enabling young women to find out more about a career in science, engineering and technology.

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