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Thursday, 30 January, 2003, 13:22 GMT
Women offered taste of tech
Woman engineer
Engineering and technical jobs need more women
A course to provide women with basic computer skills is being offered to help address the gender imbalance in technology jobs.

Women are under-represented in the information technology industry in the UK, accounting for just 21% of the workforce.

The government is keen to change this and has launched a series of initiatives designed to encourage girls and women to consider technology as a career option.

As part of this, the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) is offering 15 places to women from across London, Dorset and Yorkshire for a hands-on self study course into the basics of how computers work.

Workforce diversity

Being an engineer or a technician can be cool

Matthew Poyiadgi, CompTIA
The scheme is aimed at women from underprivileged backgrounds, those wishing to change career and those returning to work after motherhood.

"It provides a basic level of understanding of PCs and how to fix them for those looking to become IT managers, programmers or web designers," explained a spokesman for CompTIA.

The scheme has the support of e-skills UK, the organisation set up by the government to bridge the skills gap in the technology and telecoms industries.

"These sponsorships are a valuable addition to our initiatives to attract women to the IT industry and to cultivate workforce diversity at all levels," said Karen Price, Chief Executive of e-skills UK.

Geeky stigma

According to Matthew Poyiadgi of CompTIA, it is important to get women out in the field working in tech jobs to act as role models for the younger generation.

Women are coming to the business in healthy numbers, but are exiting equally quickly and somewhat unceremoniously via the back door,

Karen Bainbridge, Women in Technology
"Girls are influenced at a young age and the geeky stigma of IT puts them off," he said.

"Fixing a PC might not be sexy to them so the issue is to get them interested so they latch on to the subject. Being an engineer or a technician can be cool," he added.

Getting women into tech jobs is only part of the problem according to Karen Bainbridge, chairperson of Women in Technology, a networking group for females trying to break the glass ceiling in the tech sector.

Keeping them and making sure they do as well as their male counterparts is also proving elusive to many tech firms, said Ms Bainbridge.

Aggressive culture

"Companies are losing out on 50% of the talent by not promoting or encouraging women to the board," she said.

"Many demonstrate a higher aptitude for technology than their male counterparts and are coming to the business in healthy numbers, but at a cost of hundreds of millions, exiting equally quickly and somewhat unceremoniously via the backdoor," she added.

Lack of flexible working and the fast pace of technological change means women are reluctant to return to their posts after maternity leave, said Ms Bainbridge.

A culture of aggression is also to blame.

"In such a competitive business, management style is frequently combative and aggressive," she said.

"This is a turn-off for women, who prefer a more consensus-based management style."

See also:

23 Jan 03 | Technology
07 Nov 02 | Technology
23 Jan 02 | Science/Nature
16 Jan 02 | Technology
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