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IT industry's 'macho culture' drives women away

The gender gap in IT has widened in recent years, and long hours and male-dominated working environments are being blamed

Long hours and a macho culture are driving women out of the IT profession, according to research from the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and IT trade body Intellect.

The Women in IT industry research was commissioned on the back of figures from the Office of National Statistics showing a six per cent decline in the number of women employed in the IT industry between 1997 and 2005.

More than half of the 42 women surveyed had already left the IT industry and another 13 said they were thinking of leaving. The women were mainly over 45-years-old and in senior roles ranging from software developers, programmers and analysts to IT consultants, managers and directors.

The women all said the work-life balance, 'old-boys' male-dominated environment and industry culture are the core reasons why the IT sector is unattractive to women. The research found few opportunities for part-time work in IT and many of the women said they had to work harder than male colleagues to achieve success and break through the glass ceiling.

The report concluded that the first priority to make the sector more attractive for women is to retain those working in it now to act as role models and mentors.

"The UK IT industry is world leading but it won't stay that way for long if we continue to haemorrhage valuable, skilled women professionals from the sector," said John Higgins, director general at Intellect, in a statement.

We must take action to ensure that we are doing all that we can to recruit, motivate and retain women within our industry."