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ICT Gender Gap: Stereotyped Thinking Continues To Impact Females' Choice for Tech Careers

Study in Five European Countries Shows Female Students Have Computer Skills but Many Avoid Technology Careers

MADRID, Spain, June 24, 2009 - A high number of female students are not pursuing further studies or careers in the information and communications technology (ICT) sector, despite having good basic computing skills, according to a study and white paper by European Schoolnet, commissioned by Cisco. The study can be downloaded from http://www.eun.org/whitepaper.

Key facts:

  • The study, which covers students, parents and teachers of both genders in five European countries, reveals that there is boys and girls are roughly equal in their aptitude for, and enjoyment of, ICT at the secondary level.
  • Many female students go on to study technology at tertiary levels. However, the majority do not intend to pursue careers in the technology sector.
  • Europe is facing a shortfall of skilled ICT workers over the next few decades. Reports point to 70,000 unfilled jobs in the tech sector by 2010.
  • In parallel, Europe's working population is predicted to shrink as a result of changing demographics and an aging workforce, a situation that could be significantly alleviated by increasing the recruitment and retention of women across the board.
  • Women are currently underrepresented in the ICT sector. In 2004 females represented less than 25 percent of all computing graduates in the EU-27.  
  • In the ICT sector, only 27.8 percent of computer and information systems managers are women, and among computer hardware engineers, a mere 9.6 percent are female. Only 5.8 percent of senior academic positions in engineering and technology fields are held by women.
  • In Poland, Italy, U.K., France and the Netherlands, the majority of girls surveyed were interested in ICT. However, up to 50 percent dropped out of further studies and ICT career paths.
  • According to analysis of the findings, the single most de-motivating factor is the view that the tech sector is inherently better suited to men.

Supporting quotes:

  • "Girls in my generation are not really encouraged to go into IT. A lot of girls get into the sector via vocational colleges, and it can be intimidating being the only girl in a group of boys." said Dawn Breen, a Cisco® Networking Academy® graduate now working in ICT support for a software company in the U.K. "I would not hesitate to recommend a career in technology to any young woman who is seriously contemplating it. In my experience, once you make it into a job, females are very successful. The industry is changing, and there are more and more places for women to go and to aspire to. My message to girls would be: You won't be the only one, so don't deny yourself a great opportunity."
  •  "The perception that the only skills needed are purely technical is simply inaccurate. A wide range of qualities – problem solving skills, initiative, communication skills and much more – are sought by ICT employers at every level. There is a wealth of opportunity open to women to have a full and satisfying career within the industry, and this is something that we must do our best to communicate to girls entering higher education or the job market," said Jens Mortensen, director of Cisco Networking Academy in Europe.
  • "The pattern of underrepresentation of women in ICT is set to continue if more is not done to educate, support and encourage girls and their role models. Public-private collaboration may well have a strategic role to play in opening girls' minds to technology, by giving access to more realistic and authentic information about ICT and ICT careers," said Amy Christen, vice president of Cisco Networking Academy.

Country Tables:

Survey results indicating dropout rates:  that is, girls dropping out of ICT as they leave secondary education.







% of female students interested in ICT






% of students planning to study in tertiary






% of students interested in networking careers






Dropout rate - % students who despite liking ICT will not continue to study it






* Sample sizes: 500 students surveyed.

About European Schoolnet

European Schoolnet (www.eun.org) is a network of 31 Ministries of Education in Europe and beyond. Established more than 10 years ago with the aim of enhancing the quality of education for teacher and pupils through the use of ICT, European Schoolnet is a non-profit organisation based in Belgium. European Schoolnet also operates the EU eSkills career portal on behalf of the eSkills Industry Leadership Board (see http://eskills.eun.org).

About Cisco Systems

Cisco (NASDAQ: CSCO) is the worldwide leader in networking that transforms how people connect, communicate and collaborate. Information about Cisco can be found at http://www.cisco.com. For ongoing news, please go to http://newsroom.cisco.com.

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Cisco, the Cisco logo, Cisco Systems and Networking Academy are registered trademarks or trademarks of Cisco Systems, Inc. and/or its affiliates in the United States and certain other countries. All other trademarks mentioned in this document or Website are the property of their respective owners. The use of the word partner does not imply a partnership relationship between Cisco and any other company.

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