The Intellect Women in IT Forum was set up to encourage more women into the IT industry, and once in it, to stay in it. The Forum has over 100 members from the Private and Public sectors, networking groups and academia. Since early 2003 the Forum has had two strands of activity – a research programme and a series of sessions to share best practice and ideas about how to recruit, motivate and retain women in the IT industry. Specifically we have been focussing on the emerging issue that women tend to leave the IT industry when they are in their 40s and 50s, and we would like to understand this issue more in order to address it.
We recently published phase one of our research project which addressed the availability of published data about women in IT. It also discussed the ‘business case for diversity’ – the hard financial case which clearly demonstrates the link between effective diversity strategies and programmes, and increased women in the workforce, and the profitability of organisations. We gathered and summarised as much of the existing body of knowledge about women in IT as possible, and examined why it is so difficult to create a viable business case.
This report contains the second phase of our research programme. This part of our research was to gather more evidence about why women leave the IT industry in their 40s and 50s. Anecdotally we believed it was mainly to do with culture – women tend to leave the IT industry for environments where they have more control, or more flexibility, or working hours can be managed more easily. During phase two of our research programme we have gathered some hard evidence based on interviews, to understand in more detail why women leave. The results of the interviews make interesting reading and they support our anecdotal evidence. We must therefore take action to change our IT organisations if we want to grow the numbers of women in the industry, especially at senior levels.