The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) – a UN body – recently launched the ‘Girls in ICT Day’, which is to become an annual event, to promote activities that attract more girls and women to ICT jobs in an effort to redress the significant gender imbalance in the technology sector.
It is anticipated that, on a global scale, as the ICT sector continues to grow, there will not be nearly enough skilled professionals to meet the number of jobs that will be created. The European Union calculates that by 2022 there will be 700,000 more ICT jobs than there are professionals to fill them; globally, that shortfall is estimated to be closer to two million. Despite this predicted shortfall, the potential of more than half the world’s population – i.e. that of women’s contribution – is not being utilised, as the sector continues to struggle in attracting younger female talent to ICT jobs.
Despite the fact that the ICT sector has, in the main, managed to escape many elements of the recent global economic downturn, and that its growth contributes significantly to global and national economies and to employment, this growth has not yet led to a parallel increase in jobs for women in the ICT labour market. This female to male ratio is particularly pronounced at senior levels. A recent ITU report suggests that the issue is not just an entry-level problem but may also be one of demotivation, of retention and/or lack of promotion of women within the sector at many levels. This report also reveals that the number of women earning computer science degrees in the US has fallen from 37% in the 1980s to below 20 per cent this year; while teenage girls now use computers and the Internet at rates similar to boys, they are five times less likely to consider a technology-related career.
To improve this situation, there are reportedly very real problems to be overcome, such as the lack of promotion opportunities for women within the sector, and more generally, the underrepresentation of women at board level. These inequalities will only disappear over time if certain measures are introduced, such as the equal promotion of skills development to girls in schools, and the equal promotion of ICT careers to girls in schools, rather than the traditional practice of promoting careers that they would be ‘better suited to’.
Increasing the representation of women in the ICT sector is not only important from a gender equality perspective: it also makes sound economic sense, too.
 ‘A Bright Future in ICTs Opportunities for a New Generation of Women’ – International Telecommunications Union (2012)