Neelie Kroes, the EU Commissioner responsible for Europe’s Digital Agenda, has expressed her concern that not enough women are pursuing careers in ICT. She is also worried the problem is being compounded by women not being made to feel welcome.
“I’m worried when people assume that ICT careers wouldn’t offer exciting opportunities for women,” she wrote in her blog.
“But if women are going into the sector and not being made to feel welcome, well, that worries me even more.
“Why? Because I believe in equality of opportunity. But also because we can’t afford to exclude anyone. If we want Europe to be world class in ICT, we’ll need world-class ICT experts. But overall in Europe, not enough people are studying it or choosing it for their career.”
Kroes has a point. In Ireland alone, ICT employment is up 6pc and there are more than 2,500 vacancies across the sector. At a recent Intel Forum on Education, the CEO of Fujitsu Ireland Regina Moran said 75pc of ICT employers in Ireland have job vacancies.
In short, what is needed is greater awareness among women of the careers that can be enjoyed in the sector. The sector itself has a communications job to do if Kroes is correct in her observation that women going into the sector aren’t being made to feel welcome.
Europe’s ICT skills gap
Kroes wrote: “Changes in the sector mean that it needs a wider range of skills than ever before. But we are at risk of a ‘skills gap’, a shortage to the tune of about half a million jobs. Faced with that challenge, we need to make sure we aren’t putting barriers in the way of anyone, in particular that we aren’t keeping women from fulfilling their potential.
“And in particular that girls and young women, at the stage of career planning, are aware of what they can achieve in this sector. If we only get 50pc of Europe digital, that’s bad for the other 50pc, and it’s also failing to make the most use of the talent on offer in Europe.
“I want to get to the bottom of this problem. Previously, the European Commission has developed a code of practice on the issue. This contained some good ideas about what could be done to make IT careers more attractive to and less discriminatory towards women: from school and university education to recruitment practices; and from career development to dealing with those returning from leave,” Kroes said.