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Almost half of women in IT think gender is their biggest barrier to promotion

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Nearly half of women working in IT believe their gender is the main barrier to getting ahead in their career, according to new research from Swindon-based BCS, the Chartered Institute for IT.

In its Inclusivity in the Workplace survey – released on International Women’s Day last Friday – BCS asked men if they too felt their gender was a reason why they weren’t getting promoted. Just under one in 10 thought it was an issue.

When it comes to getting that all important first IT job, almost a third of women (30 percent) thought gender was the biggest barrier, compared with only four percent of men.

This is all set against a backdrop where women make up only around 17 percent of the IT workforce; a figure that has remained largely unchanged for the past five years.

"These findings are seriously worrying. If 30 percent of women think that gender is the biggest barrier to getting a first job in IT, and 45 percent believe gender is the biggest barrier to progressing a career in IT, they are not going to even try,” said Sarah Burnett, chairman of BCS Women and 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 profitability. 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 women at a time when there is a looming digital skills gap where the UK will need one million more tech workers by 2020.

Gillian Arnold, chairman 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 percent) believing it’s worse than other industries, compared to 16 percent 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 sector, says BCS.