8 March 2019
Nearly 1 in 2 women (45%) working in IT believe their gender is the main barrier to getting ahead in their career. That’s according to a recent opinion survey by BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT, released on International Women’s Day.
In its Inclusivity in the Workplace survey, BCS, the body that represents IT professionals, asked men if they too felt their gender was a reason why they weren’t getting promoted; just under 1 in 10 (9%) thought it was an issue.
When it comes to getting that all important first IT job, almost a third of women (30%) thought gender was the biggest barrier, compared with only 4% of men. This is all set against a backdrop where women make up only around 17% of the IT workforce; a figure that has remained largely unchanged for the past five years.1.
"These findings are seriously worrying. If 30% of women think that gender is the biggest barrier to getting a first job in IT, and 45% believe gender is the biggest barrier to progressing a career in IT, they are not going to even try,” said Sarah Burnett, Chair of BCS Women and is Executive Vice President and Distinguished Analyst at Everest Group.
“It is no wonder that we have such difficulty attracting women into this sector and retaining them. Time and again we have had reports that show gender diversity helps increase profitability2. Surely, this fact alone must encourage the IT industries to work as a group and change its image?"
Only a tenth of those who are currently taking A-Level computer studies are women3 at a time when there is a looming digital skills gap where the UK will need one million more tech workers by 20204.
Gillian Arnold, Chair of the Council of European Professional Informatics Societies Women in IT Taskforce, and a Vice-President Trustee Director at BCS said it makes sense to encourage women into IT: “The UK has depended heavily on IT staff from the rest of the world, but with Brexit uncertainties, and the establishment of mainstream IT industries in many of the countries we once recruited skilled staff from, it’s important that we in the UK widen our recruitment base.
“It’s vital that managers seeking new staff have a varied choice of candidates from every aspect of society and HR departments should demand recruiters provide a diverse slate of candidates for every role.”
There’s also a sharp divide, according to the survey, when it comes to looking at how diversity is approached for IT workers when compared to other professions - with more than twice as many women (38%) believing it’s worse than other industries, compared to 16% of men.
There are a range of initiatives that organisations can sign up to which seek to increase the number of women working in tech roles, in any sector5.
Read our case studies:
A total of 313 BCS members took part in the survey. The members targeted were UK based of working age and excluding students. The sample was structured so that there was an almost 50/50 split of women to men.
Women make up only around 17% of the IT workforce - BCS Diversity in IT 2017 report
Gender diversity helps increase profitability - several reports including from the Royal Academy of Engineers and McKinsey and Company 2015 and 2017
- Tech Nation report