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Stone age attitudes to gender prevail in IT, says survey

Gender discrimination is rife in the IT and telecommunications industries, research reveals.

According to research from IT and telecoms recruiter Greythorn, 51% of female employees in the IT and telecoms sector say they have been victims of gender discrimination.

Almost nine out of 10 (85%) female workers in the sector say gender discrimination exists in the industry. While more than 60% of all IT workers, male and female, say discrimination exists, half of this group admit they wouldn't take any action to stop it.

Paul Winchester, managing director of Greythorn, said: "The IT and telecoms industry has a history of gender discrimination. While more than half of women say they have suffered as a result of gender discrimination, 62% of the workforce agree it happens, but they aren't bothered by it. This shows a stone-age attitude. Sexism has to be actively stamped out of the workplace and those who blithely accept it are just as much to blame as people who actively discriminate. Unfortunately, discrimination has made working in the IT industry an unfair and often deeply frustrating experience for women.

"When the Sex Discrimination Act was passed in 1975, women represented 37% of the UK workforce. Since then, this figure has climbed to 46%. But at present only 24% of IT workers are women, up from 20% in 2006 . If this rate of growth continues, it will take 54 years for women in IT to achieve parity with the rest of the labour market.

"It gets worse,' said Winchester. While many of the highest paid IT jobs are in the City, only 13% of the workforce there are women. It is clear that women face an even larger barrier of discrimination when going for the most high-profile and lucrative jobs."

Both male and female IT and telecoms workers said they would prefer to have a male boss. The research showed that 8% of men and only 6% of women said they would prefer to report into a woman. This is reflected in women's experiences of seeking promotion, as 49% felt they were discriminated against during the promotion process. When asked how gender discrimination manifested itself, 78% of women and 45% of men said it included being overlooked for promotion.

Despite the prevalence of gender discrimination in the sector, workers in IT and telecoms feel that there has been some improvement during the past five years. Only 11% felt that the problem had become worse since 2006 and almost half felt that it had improved. However, workers don't expect much to change in the next five years, with 60% of workers saying there would be no improvement by 2016 and 15% feeling that discrimination would get worse.

The report was based on the responses of 330 Greythorn UK clients, who responded online between 14 and 28 February this year. Respondents came from a variety of IT and telecoms positions.