Women currently make up less than one fifth of the IT workforce. Based on current trends, the IT gender gap is set to widen slightly over the coming years. The report drew on new research among IT decision makers in UK businesses, which found that 76 per cent believe they lack suitably skilled staff in IT. Of these, 58 per cent say this negatively affects productivity levels, estimating on average that productivity levels are 33 per cent lower as a result.
Some 59 per cent agree that their IT team would benefit from having a more gender-balanced workforce, while only seven per cent disagree. Improved communication skills (52 per cent), improved staff morale (48 per cent), and bringing new ideas to the organisation (46 per cent) were the most frequently cited benefits.
Low female participation in IT education is a key factor in the workforce gender gap. Only a third of ICT A-level students and less than a tenth of Computer Studies A-Level students are female. The imbalance remains at university, with girls accounting for only 19 per cent of students taking computer science degrees. At present, only nine per cent of female students taking IT degrees go on to an IT career, compared with 26 per cent of men.
Even relatively small gains in education can have an effect: if the same number of women studied computer science degrees as men, and the same proportion of these women as men went on to work in the IT industry, the overall net benefit for the UK economy would be 103m per year.
The research also found that 53 per cent agree that women find working in technology jobs less attractive than men do. Of these, 60 per cent of believe that the IT profession is still perceived to be male-dominated, and 33 per cent think IT is not promoted enough as a viable career option for girls in school or college.
However, there are signs that the IT industry is increasingly recognising the importance of attracting more women. Almost a quarter of those surveyed said that their company is promoting IT roles expressly to women, and a fifth are visiting schools and universities specifically to speak with girls and young women.