The Commission, together with leading technology companies, is trying to get more young women interested in ICT careers in a drive to avoid a predicted shortage of some 300,000 qualified engineers by 2010.
“It is unacceptable that Europe lacks qualified ICT staff. If this shortage of computer scientists and engineers is not addressed, it will eventually slow down European economic growth,” said Information Society Commissioner Viviane Reding, addressing a conference exploring the potential for women in the ICT sector.
The conference, held on 6 March 2008, just two days before International Women’s Day, showcased a joint initiative by the Commission and a number of leading IT companies “to give young women a taste of what a job in ICT would be like”.
“We need to overcome common stereotypes which describe ICT careers as boring and too technical for women,” Reding told the conference, which also discussed best practice on how to get girls and young women interested in taking up ICT careers as well as possible educational barriers.
Encouraged by the experience, the Commission, together with the private sector, is to draft a “European Code of Best Practices for Women in ICT” by next year’s Women’s Day.
Increasing human resources in science and technology is one of the key targets of the Lisbon agenda in order to boost competitiveness and increase growth. According to the Commission, the ICT industry alone contributes to one fourth of EU’s total growth and 4% of its jobs. Yet the sector is set to face a skills shortage of some 300,000 qualified engineers.
Using the existing pool of highly trained women is seen as one way to avoid the shortage and increase human resources in science and technology.
According to recent Eurostat statistics, in most of the EU 27 over 50% of science and technology human resources were female in 2006. The highest proportion of females employed in the science and technology sector was found in Lithuania (72.0%) and Estonia (69.7%), whereas in absolute terms, Germany employs the highest number of women in science and technology, 6.2 million. The vast majority of the EU’s female HRSTO work in services: 27 million compared with just two million in manufacturing.