The gender imbalance throughout ICT and computing education must be rectified if the UK is to meet the growing demand for IT professionals, and secure the future growth of the sector.

The Women in IT Scorecard published today by BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT, and e-skills UK reveals that girls account for just 6.5% of those taking A level computing. However, they consistently out-perform boys in computing and ICT A levels.

The Scorecard examines participation rates and trends by gender from secondary education through into the IT workforce. It includes international comparisons by gender in IT occupations and the IT sector, as well as an evaluation across other STEM subjects.

Gillian Arnold, Chair of BCSWomen says; “The continuing decline in women entering the IT profession is a real threat for the UK and an issue that clearly we need to address. This report helps to identify the areas where we need to focus our energy.

“While there are some good indications in the findings that suggest there is progress is some areas (for example – an increase in the number of women working in IT part-time), it’s still not enough. We need to work together, as individuals, educators and businesses to tackle the issue. We know girls and women are good at computing and we need to translate that ability into action, and inspire them to see IT as a career option that offers them great career opportunities.”

The report also investigates whether the low representation levels of females is a problem limited just to the IT workforce in the UK, or is an issue that needs to be addressed throughout STEM subjects and across the globe. The research shows that in a comparison with other European nations the level of female representation in IT positions within the UK is slightly below the norm.

Karen Price OBE, CEO of e-skills UK adds: “Women have a significant contribution to make to the IT sector and it is vital for the economy that we ensure they have the opportunity. Employers care deeply about the gender imbalance and are committed to taking action to improve it. This joint report provides the evidence we need to face the problem head-on, and to develop hard hitting and effective interventions to solve it.”

Key findings:

  • By 2013, less than one in six (16%) of the 1,129,000 people working as IT specialists in the UK were women
  • Of the 753,000 people working in the IT sector at this time, just one in five (20%) were women
  • In 2013, within the IT sector itself little more than one in ten (11%) IT specialists were women
  • The proportion of women working as self-employed IT specialists has more than doubled over the past decade
  • Just under one in five (18%) of females working as IT specialists were employed on a part-time basis – a figure well below that for other occupations
  • Women are much more likely to hold technician/engineer grade positions than men (34% vs. 20% respectively) and less likely to be working in ‘professional’ (primarily development related) occupations (46% vs. 57%)
  • Female representation within IT specialist roles is higher within the devolved nations than in the UK as a whole (19% vs. 16%)
  • At £640 per week, the median gross weekly rate of pay for female IT specialists was 16% (£120) less than the comparison figure for men working in IT roles (£760) and the recorded level of pay for women IT roles has been consistently below that of male IT specialists in each of the past 10 years
  • Gender imbalance in both the IT industry and in IT occupations is an issue to all EU15 nations
  • Female representation is in these industries/occupations is lower in the UK than the EU 15 average