The future of the UK's IT industry hangs on its ability to attract and employ more women.
Women hold the key to plugging a critical skills shortfall that is affecting the entire UK tech industry, says the IT & Telecoms Insights 2008 report by e-skills UK based on Gartner research.
A survey of chief information officers last year projected skill gaps in every area of IT by 2010, with the largest rift in business intelligence and business process improvement.
Filling this hole will be impossible while the tech industry does not appeal to 51 percent of the population who are female, the report says.
Last year just 16 percent of tech workers were women, and the report warns that new talent in the IT industry is "diminishing at an alarming rate" as enrolments in technology-intensive courses decline and women remain unconvinced of a career in IT.
The report says: "Expanding the pool of IT talent is a business and national imperative as an increasing portion of UK GDP can be attributed either directly or indirectly to IT activity. IT jobs are increasingly disproportionately held by men. Gender balance in IT is not only an issue of social equality; rather it is central to the viability of an industry."
The telecommunications industry's need for new skills will be driven by a swathe of its workforce reaching retirement age, the report says.
The report adds that the UK must reduce its reliance on skilled offshore workers and rebuild its domestic IT labour force to serve emerging areas such as analytics, information management, design and innovation.
The report tells IT professionals to change the way they "recruit, train and foster subordinates' career", particularly in government, and stresses the need for new teaching courses that interest students in IT and provide employers with the right mix of skills.