Engineering and IT companies must change their corporate cultures if they are to improve the gender balance of their employees, Minister for Women and Equality Meg Munn MP told The Royal Academy of Engineering at a seminar held on Thursday 30 November.

The Academy hosted the third Equalitec Diversity Forum on Advancing Women in Information Technology, Electronics and Communications. “This sector is one of Britain’s most vibrant and currently employs over a million people,” says Meg Munn. “Despite this, only one fifth of the workforce are women. If the industry is to remain successful then it is essential that steps are taken to redress this imbalance. The position becomes even starker when you look at the predicted growth in the IT sector workforce, which is five to eight times above the national average.”

A CISCO study in 2005 predicted that demand for people with IT skills in the UK will outstrip demand by 40,000 by 2008, which may force employers to recruit outside their traditional skill base. Around 18 per cent of women with children under five are working full-time and a further 36 per cent are working part-time. Employers will have to address the issues of work-life balance and working practices if they are successfully to address such skills gaps in the future. The Academy commends schemes such as the Exemplar Employers Initiative, which has collected over 100 examples to showcase best practice in companies.

“Changing corporate cultures is not an easy task,” said Ms Munn. “But it is an essential one if the UK is to develop and sustain a flexible, highly skilled workforce to cope with the twin challenges of globalisation and rapid demographic change.”

“The Academy is committed to enhancing the contribution of engineering to raising the UK’s innovative performance,” said the Academy’s Senior Vice President Professor Wendy Hall, Head of Electronic and Computer Science at Southampton University. “To harness our full national economic potential in this way, we need urgent action to enable women in the IT and communications sector to use their skills and expertise effectively at every stage of their careers.”

“Most of the computer products or devices that we use are designed by men, although half of the users are women,” said Professor Hall. “People ask why we need more women in computer science, and it is because we need more women who can build and design technology products, as well as to sell and manage them.”

Notes for editors

  1. The Equalitec Diversity Forum – Changing Corporate Cultures will be held at The Royal Academy of Engineering, 29 Great Peter Street, London SW1, started at 10am on Thursday 30 November 2006.
  2. Founded in 1976, The Royal Academy of Engineering promotes the engineering and technological welfare of the country. Our fellowship – comprising the UK’s most eminent engineers – provides the leadership and expertise for our activities, which focus on the relationships between engineering, technology, and the quality of life. As a national academy, we provide independent and impartial advice to Government; work to secure the next generation of engineers; and provide a voice for Britain’s engineering community.

For more information please contact

Jane Sutton at The Royal Academy of Engineering