A European Commission survey published today has found that bringing more women into the digital sector could boost Europe's economy by €9 billion (£7.6 billion) a year.
The study found that there is a desperate shortage of women qualified to work in IT, and that this paucity has led to a massive deficit in the European labour force.
"Of 1,000 women with a Bachelors or other first degree, only 29 hold a degree in Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) (as compared to 95 men), and only 4 in 1000 women will eventually work in the ICT sector."
The study also found that "Only 19.2% of ICT-sector workers have female bosses, compared to 45.2% of non-ICT workers", and that women were much more likely than men to leave the sector mid-career, rather than continuing on through maturity.
With a current shortage of 300,000 workers in the European IT sector, and a predicted tripling of that number to 900,000 unfilled positions by 2015, the lack of women involved in IT is soon projected to become an industry-wide problem.
The EU Information sector has long lagged behind its competitors in China, India and the US. While the region accounts for a quarter of the world's IT consumption, European companies make up only ten per cent of the world's market share, and consistently lose out on domestic sales to overseas firms. Only 15 of the world's top IT companies are based in Europe, and none of these are market leaders in their specialisation. The gulf in quality has led to significant talent drain in the EU ICT sector, and this embarrassing situation could be remedied, the report suggests, by transforming the way the IT industry is viewed by women.
"We now know, beyond doubt, that more women in a business mean a healthier business," said Neelie Kroes, European Commission Vice-President for the Digital Agenda. "It is high time the IT sector realised this and allowed women a chance to help the sector and Europe's economy benefit from their enormous potential".
Other factors are also at play. Although women influence more than 80 per cent of consumer spending decisions, 90 per cent of technology products and services are designed by men. This is one instance of how a lack of diversity in the workplace is having a very real effect on the industry. The study recommended:
- Revamping the image of IT among women in society.
- Empowering women within the sector by developing clear career paths.
- Increasing the number of women entrepreneurs in IT by improving access to venture capital.
- Improving working conditions in the sector.
It concluded that one of the most important aspects of transforming the industry is the promotion of digital role models for young girls. With the shortage of IT workers growing every year, we can hope that diversity will start to become one of the industry's top priorities.
Image: Flickr (plantronicsgermany)