Issues Raised by the Women in IT (WINIT) Project in England
Marie Griffiths (University of Salford, Greater Manchester, UK) and Karenza Moore (University of Salford, Greater Manchester, UK)
Copyright: © 2006
This article explores several issues raised by the European Social Fund (ESF) Women in IT (WINIT) project (February 2004 to February 2006) which focuses on women in the IT industry in England. The project consists of an online questionnaire aimed at women currently in the IT sector in England and those wishing to return to IT following a career or “carer” break (a break to care for children, or sick or elderly relatives). The WINIT team aims to target 750 respondents in order to collect and analyse data from a demographically diverse group on a range of issues including perceptions of fairness of pay, promotion prospects and future career aspirations. In addition the WINIT team are currently conducting a series of in-depth interviews with women in the IT industry in order to gain a rich understanding of these women’s perceptions of, and experiences in, IT in England. In order to explore the issues raised by the WINIT project it is important to consider the wider historical and contemporary socio-economic backdrop of individual women’s experiences. The IT industry in Britain has experienced considerable expansion over the past twenty years. In November 2004 it was estimated that the IT workforce consisted of 1.2 million people (580,000 in the IT industry, with an additional 590,000 IT professionals in other sectors). There are also an estimated 20 million people in Britain using IT in their everyday work. All the above figures are predicted to grow between 1.5% to 2.2% per annum over the next decade (e-skills UK/Gartner, 2004). In terms of gender, in spring 2003 it was estimated that 151,000 women were working in IT occupations compared with 834,000 men, whilst in the childcare sector, there were less than 10,000 men working in these occupations, compared with 297,000 women (Miller, Neathey, Pollard, & Hill, 2004). To clarify, it is estimated that only 1 in 5 of the IT workforce in Britain is female (e-skills UK/Gartner, 2004). Such statistics indicate a classic case of horizontal occupational segregation. However, it must be noted that all statistics regarding the IT industry should be treated with caution given the problems of defining the sector (von Hellens, Nielsen, & Beekhuyzen, 2004). In the UK, figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) indicate that women accounted for 30% of IT operations technicians, but a mere 15% of ICT Managers and only 11% of IT strategy and planning professionals (Miller, Neathey, Pollard, & Hill, 2004). Although women are making inroads into technical and senior professions there remains a “feminisation” of lower level jobs, with a female majority in operator and clerical roles and a female minority in technical and managerial roles (APC, 2004). Again this is a classic case of vertical gender segregation with women more strongly represented in lower level IT occupations than in higher status and higher paid ones (Miller, Neathey, Pollard, & Hill, 2004, p. 69). There is a relatively narrow gender pay-gap in the IT sector in comparison with all occupations. According to the ONS (2003), the gender pay-gap amongst ICT professionals in terms of hourly earnings stands at 7.5%, which is slightly narrower than the figure for all professional occupations.