- 85% of female IT workers believe gender discrimination is a problem in the sector
- 70% of women feel their gender is a barrier to success
- 3 times more IT professionals prefer male bosses
Gender discrimination is rife in the IT and telecommunications industries.
According to new research from IT and telecoms recruiter Greythorn, 51% of female employees in the IT and telecoms sector say they have been victims of gender discrimination.
85% of female workers in the sector say gender discrimination exists in the industry. But while this means more than 60% of all IT workers say discrimination exists, half of this group admit they wouldn’t take any action to stop it.
Paul Winchester, managing director of Greythorn speculates: “The IT and telecoms industry has a history of gender discrimination. While more than half of women say they have suffered as a result of gender discrimination, 62% of the workforce says it happens, but they aren’t bothered by it. This shows a stone-age attitude. Sexism has to be actively stamped out of the workplace and those who blithely accept it are just as much to blame as people who actively discriminate. Unfortunately, discrimination has made working in the IT industry an unfair and often deeply frustrating experience for women.
“When the Sex Discrimination Act was passed in 1975, women represented 37% of the UK workforce. Since then this figure has climbed to 46%. But at present only 24% of IT workers are women, an increase from 20% in 2006 . If this rate of growth continues, it will take 54 years for women in IT to achieve parity with the rest of the labour market.
And it gets worse. While many of the highest paid IT jobs are in the City, only 13% of the workforce there are women. It’s clear that women face an even larger barrier of discrimination when going for the most high-profile and lucrative jobs.”
Getting to the top
Both male and female IT and telecoms workers said they would prefer to have a male boss. The research showed that 8% of men and only 6% of women said they would prefer to report into a woman. This is reflected in women’s experiences of seeking promotion, as 49% felt they were discriminated against during the promotion process. When asked how gender discrimination manifested itself, 78% of women and 45% of men said it included being overlooked for promotion.
Paul Winchester comments: “While gender discrimination is, sadly, alive and well in the IT and telecoms sector, this is not wholly driven by prejudice among those at the top. Both men and women prefer male bosses and in this sense the discrimination is perpetuated by employees at all levels.
Despite the prevalence of gender discrimination in the sector, workers in IT and telecoms feel that there has been some improvement during the last five years. Only 11% felt that the problem had become worse since 2006 and almost half felt that it had improved. However, workers don’t expect much to change in the next five years. 60% of workers felt that there would be no improvement by 2016 and 15% felt that discrimination would get worse.
Paul Winchester says: “For employers, the cost of failing to take this problem seriously could be enormous. The Equality Act 2010 has given employees greater powers to challenge their employer when they face discrimination on the grounds of gender, but the problem can only be solved if employers start to actively tackle the problem. There is a perception that IT and telecoms is a male-dominated industry and this has become deeply ingrained. HR departments need to take an active role in ensuring that in the recruitment and hiring processes, women are treated the same way as men.
“But tackling discrimination must be a two-way process. Both women and men who suffer discrimination must make sure they understand and exercise their legal rights and be prepared if necessary to challenge the status quo in an employment tribunal.”
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