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EDITIONS
 Thursday, 23 January, 2003, 11:03 GMT
Women spurning tech jobs
BT female engineer at work
Women leaving jobs in information technology

Making sure women stay in technology jobs is as important as persuading girls to pursue such careers in the first place.

This was the view of a succession of speakers at the third annual Women in Information Technology conference held in London on Wednesday.

Currently too many women are leaving the profession and this flow must be stemmed if the UK is to have an equal percentage of men and women in the tech sector, said Trade and Trade and Industry Secretary Patricia Hewitt.

They are quitting their jobs, either to have children or to pursue other interests, she said.

"Over one third of new recruits in the technology industry are women but they don't stay so something is going wrong on the issue of retention," she said.

'Workaholic culture'

Part of the problem, said Ms Hewitt, is a perception that it was impossible to balance a career and children in the often tough world of technology.

Patricia Hewitt
Hewitt: Something is wrong in retaining women
More flexible working and "giving more women the confidence to challenge a workaholic culture" were crucial she added.

Despite much work at government and industry level to address the problem of recruiting and retaining females in technology jobs, the figures still make for depressing reading.

Speakers from high-profile tech firms such as Oracle, Cisco and Dell admitted that less than 20% of their managers are women.

The average starting salary for a female technology graduate is 3,000 less than her male counterpart and only one third of new recruits are women.

Reasons to be cheerful

Some speakers and delegates vented their frustration that little seemed to have changed in the last 10 years.

Information technology can be very creative, you can use it to edit music and video and to create animations

Kay Baker, Kendrick School for Girls
"Twenty years ago we celebrated the fact that a woman engineer had been appointed to a vice president post," said Pat Haikin, director of the charity Training for Life.

"I suspect that we would get just as excited today," she added.

There were some reasons to be optimistic however. An initiative launched at last year's conference - Computer Clubs for Girls - had taken off in 24 schools in the South East with plans to go nationwide.

And they are proving very popular with the teenage girls that they are aimed at.

"Girls are more independent and more creative than in traditional information technology lessons," explained Katy Baker from the Kendrick School for Girls, who acts as facilitator at her school's computer club.

"Information technology can be very creative, you can use it to edit music and video and to create animations. If that was made more of then more girls would go into technology," she said.

See also:

09 Aug 02 | Technology
23 Jan 02 | Science/Nature
17 Jan 02 | Science/Nature
16 Jan 02 | Technology
07 Nov 02 | Technology
25 Jul 02 | Technology
05 Dec 02 | Technology
07 Nov 02 | Technology
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