EU Commission: IT isn't just men's business
The EU Commission wants to dispel the widespread preconception that information and communications technology (ICT) is for men only. As the EU Commission notes in a press release even though the proportion of female engineering and computer science graduates is still very low, young women can look forward to a successful and worthwhile career in the ICT sector. A conference on this topic was held in Brussels last week.
EU Commissioner Viviane Reding is proposing a European Code of Best Practices for Women in ICT. She hopes to stop women leaving this sector and do away with some preconceptions about working in it. It is hoped that a code of practice can be agreed with the industry in time for International Women's Day, 10 March 2009.
The EU Commission claims that the industry's lack of skilled personnel could best be eliminated with the help of women. Last Saturday, as a foretaste of International Women's Day, women were granted free admission to the penultimate day of CeBIT.
Reding is taking the same line on at least one of those points. She said that a shortage of qualified IT personnel in Europe could not be accepted. If that lack of computer scientists and engineers were not eliminated, she pointed out, economic growth in Europe could slow down, and Europe could risk falling behind its Asian competitors. She insisted that the stereotyped view that careers in ICT were boring and too technical for women, had to be eliminated.
The Commission reported that the total number of graduates from technical degree courses in the 27 Member States had risen considerably from 150,965 in 1998 to 320,950 in 2004, but the annual rate of growth was "in free fall", from 60 per cent in 1998 to just ten 10 per cent in 2004. The situation in the USA was similar. The proportion of students starting courses in computer science had fallen there from almost four to one per cent. That, commented the Commission, was the lowest value since 1977 for computer science.
On the other hand, it noted as a positive sign that the proportion of female graduates in Europe had risen in almost all specialist fields. In the case of engineering degrees, however, women still only took a 19 per cent share. In some countries, such as Austria, Portugal and Poland, the number of female computer science graduates had even fallen badly from 1998 to 2005. An investigation carried out on 150 European telecommunications companies in October 2007 had moreover shown that, on average, only around six per cent of their board members were women.