More women in the EU digital sector would boost annual GDP by €9 billion


Women Active in the ICT Sector – a study published by the European Commission this October 2013 – found that getting more girls interested in a digital career and getting more women into digital jobs would benefit the digital industry, women themselves and Europe’s economy.


Despite strong evidence regarding the importance of fully incorporating women into the Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) sector, a gender ICT gap still remains in Europe. European females do not take ICT studies. Moreover, women are underrepresented in the sector, particularly in technical and decision-making positions. Women’s active participation in the ICT sector is essential for Europe’s long-term growth and economic sustainability.


But if the trend were reversed and women held digital jobs as frequently as men, the European GDP could be boosted annually by around € 9 billion (1.3 times Malta’s GDP), according to the study. The ICT sector would benefit since organisations which are more inclusive of women in management achieve a 35% higher Return on Equity and 34% better total return to shareholders than other comparable organisations.


The study found evidence that for every 1,000 women with a bachelor degree in Europe, 29 hold a degree in ICT, compared to 95 men (3 times more men than women). And yet, from those 29 women with an ICT bachelor degree, only 4 currently work currently in the ICT sector. 
From those 95 men with an IT bachelor degree, 20 work in the ICT sector (5 times more than women).


Female participation in the ICT sector in Europe : For every 1000 women with a bachelor degree

Regarding the difficulties of women reaching managerial and decision-making positions, the study found that in Europe, the largest quoted companies count 16% of women in their highest decision-making bodies. Worldwide, in 2010, 96% of companies’ CEOs in the IT & Telecom sectors are male.

The so-called “glass ceiling” is clearly identified by women: according to a 2011 study from the Institute of Leadership and Management from the United Kingdom 73% of women managers believed that there are barriers preventing them from progressing to top levels, and that these barriers are acknowledged by women at all ages, but particularly those with longer careers.

In contrast, only 38% of men believe the glass ceiling exists.

Although this is a general problem in all sectors, the percentage of female bosses in the ICT sector is much smaller than in other non-ICT sectors. The study shows that in the ICT sector 19.2% of workers have female bosses, while 45.2% of workers in the non-ICT service sector have female bosses.


Women Active in the ICT Sector recommends 4 Key priorities for action:


1. Build a renewed image of the sector among women and mainstream society 

Young women usually see jobs in the ICT sector as solitary, boring and useless in terms of helping others. They prefer working with people on tasks involving strong human relationships. Current stereotypes relating to the sector include: long working hours, a largely male-dominated environment, and difficulties in balancing personal and professional life.

2. Empower women in the sector 
Certain psychological and socio-psychological factors have important effects on the labour market outcome, particularly in very male-dominated sectors such as ICT. These factors include gender differences in risk preferences, attitudes towards competition, strengthening other-regarding preferences, and attitudes towards negotiation. Those differences have a significant impact on gender gaps in the ICT sector and are partially explained by lack of confidence of women in their own capabilities as well as a cultural and social environment which is still dominated by strong preconceptions regarding appropriate jobs for men and women.

3. Increase the number of women entrepreneurs in the ICT sector 
The number of female entrepreneurs in the ICT sector is low compared to other sectors. Women constitute 53.9% of entrepreneurs in non-ICT sectors and 31.1% of all European self/employed while accounting for a mere 19.2% of ICT entrepreneurs. Promoting entrepreneurship in Europe, both among men and women, is critical for European economy.

4. Improve working conditions in the sector
There are two main problems in the sector which affect the working conditions of women: the persistence of certain informal rules in the sector (the so called “oldboys’ network system”), and working conditions (working hours and schedules). With this said, maternity remains the turning point of women’s careers in this
sector as well.



The study showcases a variety of profiles of women working in the area of digital technology: from a videogames developer and a digital communications specialist to an ICT policy-maker. Profiling of digital role models for girls and giving visibility to women in the sector is the key way to attracting many more girls to consider a career in the ICT sector, the report concludes.




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