Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

London's It Girls

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

London's It Girls

Article excerpt


Last week's Women in IT conference was addressed by Patricia Hewitt, the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, who launched a bid to get more women into the industry. Sally O'Reilly takes a look at what is on offer London's IT girls

FANCY a job in IT? If you are female, probably not. Chances are that the prospect of joining the boffins and computer nerds fails to grab your imagination. A recent report produced by the National Computing Centre showed that the proportion of women in IT has fallen from 29 per cent in 1994 to 18 per cent in 2001.

But women with computer skills can find a huge variety of work, from highly technical programming jobs to working in sales or consultancy and even film, TV and radio. The recession has sparked a dip in demand, but the industry still can't attract enough staff with the right skills. With salaries in the South East often above 35,000, a career in IT is certainly worth considering.

So why are IT careers not attracting more women?

According to Rebecca George, director of UK government business at IBM, the stereotypical image of the computer programmer, complete with goatee beard and anorak, just doesn't appeal to the girls. And this tends to be a dominant role model. "Most people don't know any women with senior jobs in IT," she says.

It's partly because it's a new profession."

George knows from experience that working in IT can be both varied and rewarding, and people skills are a bonus. Her first degree was in English, her second in broadcasting and she came into her current role via management consultancy, sales and human resources.

Now she is the link person between IBM and the Government, her people skills are vital. "Delegation and communication are an essential part of my role," she says.

If her CV sounds daunting, George stresses that all sorts of work experience can prepare you for an IT career. "A holiday job in a bar can give you experience of relationship management and communication, but people think you need specific technical skills," she says.

ACCORDING to Anne Cantelo, project director with the Government-backed e-skills National Training Organisation (NTO), the IT industry needs a woman's eye.

Technical wizardry is fine, but women want to know what it can do in the real world. "If you give a boy a Palm pilot, he'll happily spend hours working out what it does," she says.

Whereas girls will only bother with it if they know how it works and how it can be useful to them."

Women are more concerned with the application of IT products, she points out, and the industry needs to employ people on both sides of the gender divide to reach a wider market.

Cantelo took part in a recent conference, organised by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), which looked at the issue of recruiting women into IT jobs. …

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