The pay gap between male and female tech professionals has narrowed but striking differences remain, according to the latest government research.
Female IT and telecoms staff still earn 20 percent less than their male counterparts, according to a research note due to be published next month by e-skills UK, the government skills council for IT and telecoms. The gap has shrunk from 30 percent one year ago, e-skills found.
Women in IT and telecoms careers now typically earn £30,940, compared with £38,800 for men. The gap persists across all age groups, with older female staff most disadvantaged.
Men aged over 50 earn on average £40,140, compared with just £24,960 for women over 50. The difference even extends to degree-educated woman earning less on average than non-degree educated men.
Industry observers said their experience highlighted a similar pay gap. Jan Peters, manager of the Women's Forum at the British Computer Society, said she thought women were often paid around 20 percent less than men doing the same job.
Other industry insiders have claimed the difference in pay between the sexes is due to the different roles men and women sometimes undertake. Parity Resources, an IT recruitment company, said its male candidates were usually paid more, but this was because they worked in more technical roles that attracted a higher salary.
"Contract rates for men have averaged £331 per day, while for women it has averaged £249 per day," said Simon Page, Parity's director of permanent recruitment. "But you have to offset that against the higher demand for the scarce technical skills. If we're not placing women in those roles, it will give an artificial gender gap."
Page added that men and women would be paid the same for doing the same job: "A male analyst will be paid the same as a female analyst. It's just that we're not placing women into these technical roles."
However, some leading figures in the IT industry have pointed out that women are often put off pursuing more technical jobs in the IT industry. According to World Wide Web inventor Sir Tim Berners-Lee, a culture exists where women can be put off a career in technology both by "stupid" behaviour by some male "geeks", and by the reactions of other women.
"It's a complex problem — we find bias against women by women. There are bits of male geek culture and engineer culture that are stupid. They should realise that they could be alienating people who are smarter and better engineers," said Berners-Lee at conference last year.
According to e-skills UK, the highest paid disciplines for permanent staff are ICT managers (£45,000) and IT strategy and planning professionals (£42,000).
People working in user support can expect to earn £25,500 while general IT or telecoms staff are paid around £35,000 on average.
But there are still marked regional differences, e-skills found. Employers in London and the south-east pay the highest wages, followed by Yorkshire and Humberside, which includes the key business areas of Leeds and Sheffield. IT professionals in the north-east face the worst deal, receiving just 53 percent of the average London salary.