One of the fastest growing and most diverse industries recruiting today is the IT sector. With more companies than ever before relying on computer-based systems and online interactions, there is a huge demand for qualified professionals who can maintain and manage IT systems, or create and manage specialist software. There are also great financial opportunities in this sector, with IT project managers taking home an average salary of around £48,000.

There are so many ways to work in IT. Everything from offices to schools, from hospitals to warehouses, has an IT network at its centre and an online platform to maintain. Working in IT can involve some of the world’s most interesting and unusual industries. From developing a website for a local company to project managing global conference communications, there are many ways women could be involved in IT work.

However, a Deloitte study from 2016 notes that just one-quarter of tech jobs in developed nations are held by women, with very few of the senior roles being allocated to female workers. The study also asserts that this disparity is a key contributor to the overall gender pay gap. So why are women staying away from this lucrative and exciting industry – and what can be done to attract more females into the IT sector?

Why are there fewer women in tech jobs than men?

There is a wider problem of low female engagement in the science and engineering sectors. A 2015 study found that more than half of women who start in tech-based industries end up leaving for a different sector. The top reasons cited for leaving include feeling isolated or bullied, poor management and feedback, and a lack of opportunities to move up the career ladder.

This is certainly true in the IT sector, say women working in the industry. However, men in the tech sector tend to disagree. They feel that there are plenty of opportunities for women and that jobs are open to the best candidate, whatever their gender. Often, they claim that there are too few women entering education on IT courses – therefore, there are not enough qualified women to compete for the best tech jobs.

There is some truth in this. Even in countries where the genders are close to equal in law, such as Norway, Finland and the UK, there is a significant lack of women studying on tech and computer-based degree courses. Women are less likely to studying programming, engineering and other related disciplines. Yet the gap is not so broad as some would have you believe – women are signing up in increasing numbers to study IT related subjects. So why are they still underrepresented when it comes to employment – and what can be done about the issue?

Attracting more women to tech jobs

More female role models in IT could help to entice workers into the sector. There has always been a distinct lack of female CEOs among the top tech companies, though this is starting to change. Recruiters can inspire young women to work in IT through the success stories of some of the industry’s rising female stars: such as Jessica Naziri of TechSesh, FileMaker senior Dara Treseder or engineer Erica Baker from Slack.

Search for candidates in female-focused forums and social media sites. Women who work in tech often band together online, discussing opportunities and sharing experiences. These hives of female IT professionals are a great resource to tap when recruiting. There are also focus programs which are designed to push women into male-dominated work fields, backed by grant money in many cases and partnering with these initiatives can increase a job’s visibility to a female audience.

Always use gender-neutral language when writing IT vacancy posts. Studies also suggest using less masculine language – for example, ‘developer’ instead of ‘hacker’ and ‘IT professional’ instead of ‘techie’.

Companies that promote more women will almost certainly attract more women into the business. Knowing that a company has a female management team could encourage more women to apply for the role, and give them confidence that the job has future prospects. Women in tech jobs often feel they are passed over for promotion while their male colleagues rise up the ranks, so by promoting women to senior roles, new staff will immediately have confidence in their new employer.

Offering flexible working isn’t always possible for employers, but a degree of flexibility in an IT role could ensure that females with families are able to join the industry. There are plenty of IT roles which can be carried out remotely, either some or all of the time. In-house IT roles with flexible hours, or a family-friendly approach to urgent leave requests, can empower women to enter the tech field and use their IT skills on a full or part-time basis.

Retaining female IT professionals

Even where companies are strong at hiring women for IT jobs, the industry still has a high attrition rate. In order to keep skilled IT professionals on their books, companies need to ensure their female workers are getting fair opportunities and an equal salary. IT jobs often feature among studies of job satisfaction and happiness, with settled IT workers reporting that they enjoy their job. However, women have slightly lower rates of job satisfaction, and this is likely a result of the barriers they face. To ensure that women are attracted to IT jobs and that they stay in them, employers should work continually to maintain an equal and fair workplace.

For more information on recruitment for a wide range of industries, including the IT sector, contact Time Recruitment today. Our busy and fast-growing Manchester based recruitment agency sources the most skilled and reliable staff to fill roles at your company.