IT 'needs women'

The vast majority of scientifically trained women are opting out of science and technology-related careers, according to new research

The UK's technology industry is wasting more than £70bn worth of trained personnel by failing to bring more women into the workforce, according to a major scientific research organisation.

Qinetiq, a former arm of the Ministry of Defence that now provides scientific and technological research and solutions to private industry, said this week that scientifically trained women are choosing not to pursue careers in science and technology, which is a situation putting the UK's science and technology industries at risk.

Three-quarters of the 290,000 UK women of working age with degrees in subjects related to science, engineering and technology (SET) do not take up careers in those areas, according to Qinetiq's research. Among those who don't pursue technology careers, 50,000 already have SET-related work experience.

In the IT, electronics, telecommunications and broadcasting sectors, women make up only 28 percent of the work force, Qinetiq said, lower than in other advanced countries such as the US, Canada and Taiwan. The proportion of women in those sectors involved in jobs specifically related to developing and producing technology is even lower -- just 9 percent, compared with more than 20 percent in the US.

In the mean time, girls continue to outperform boys at GCSE-level science, and the proportion of girls taking science-related A Levels has grown 8.7 percent in the last five years. The proportion of boys taking science-related A Levels has dropped 1.6 percent in the same period.

"Science and technology companies need to take a long hard look at why women are not entering careers in this sector," said Qinetiq chairman Dame Pauline Neville-Jones in a statement. "Collectively we need to help make this area more attractive to girls at school, then ensure that they capitalise on their qualifications rather than embark on unrelated careers."

Qinetiq said that only 10 percent of its own leadership team is female, although two female scientists head the company's two largest business units.