Bring on the women
The appointment of Carly Fiorina as chief executive of Hewlett-Packard last week took a lot of people by surprise - not least because of her gender. It is unusual to see a woman at the helm of a big international company - and more unusual still to see a woman progress to such a level in an IT firm.
Attracting women into IT is a problem that the industry must solve. Governments around the world have been worried about the apparent reluctance of girls to take up scientific subjects at school, and that unwillingness translates into a lack of women applying for jobs in the IT field.
You can see why they're worried. If, as Tony Blair and many other leaders are now convinced, technology will be the key driver of the world economy in the future, this imbalance bodes ill. If half the workforce sees technology as not being for them, we simply will not have the skills base necessary to compete globally - especially as a growing proportion of the overall workforce is now made up of women.
Women are now thought to represent almost a fifth of the UK's IT workforce - which is a marked improvement on the 9% recorded only a few years ago, but still shows a huge imbalance compared to the number of women in the UK's workforce as a whole. And a disproportionate number of those women who are in IT occupy only junior posts, while men remain in charge.
For instance, a recent survey found a marked lack of senior women in technology consultancies. At Andersen Consulting, women account for only 13% of the firm's partners and associates. At Ernst & Young, just over 15% of the top 200 partners and senior managers are women.
Fiorina's appointment as head of one of the world's largest computer firms is a great boon for the cause of women in technology. She will provide a role model for women carving out a career in the industry, and encourage women that it is possible to get ahead in a male-dominated field.
Another prominent female role model highlighted last week was TV's Carol Vorderman, whom the UK public voted as their top choice as prototype for a robot helper. While the robot question was frivolous, the poll reveals how much respect we pay to brainy scientific types. Everybody loves Carol Vorderman. She alone, simply by being obviously clever on TV, has done huge amounts to help young women get interested in science, computers and even IT. Good for you, Carol.
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