More than half of all women working in the technology industry think their pay package is not comparable to that of their male colleagues performing similar roles, according to a survey conducted by Intellect, the UK trade association for the technology industry.

Underlining the problem, more than one in three say they have evidence that this is the case.

And the trade group said anecdotal evidence from the annual survey, entitled Perceptions of Equal Pay, highlights how many women are turning away from careers in technology because of perceptions of inequality.

Additional research from Intellect indicates the number of women employed in the IT sector has fallen to just 16%, with unequal pay seen as part of the problem.

But Intellect warned the figures came against the backdrop of a technology industry that is suffering from an acute skills shortage. It said that attracting and retaining women in the industry could increase the industry’s contribution to the UK’s GDP by several billion pounds now and in the future.

The survey found how important transparent pay structures are. Over three quarters of respondents said that if a company conducted an equal pay audit it would encourage them to work for the organisation. Yet only 4% of respondents said they were aware that their companies conducted such audits.

Gillian Arnold, sales manager for IBM, said: “From my experience working in the technology industry I know that most women will start to look elsewhere if they perceive a pay gap, and that elsewhere is likely to be outside the industry. I also know that perceived inequality puts many women off from entering our industry in the first place.”

Carrie Hartnell, Women in Technology programme manager at Intellect, said: “It is clear that perceptions of unequal pay in the technology industry still abound and I am disappointed by the small scale of improvements on last year’s results. In most cases perceptions of inequality have only fallen between 1 and 5%. Today’s findings illustrate how a lack of equal pay in the technology industry is damaging our economy. Intellect is urging the private sector to follow the lead of the public sector and implement equal pay audits as soon as possible.”

The Perceptions of Equal Pay 2007 survey was conducted online during the spring and summer of this year. 368 employees in the technology industry took part in this survey.

Key findings include:

  • 54% of women think their pay package is not comparable to male colleagues performing a similar role. 35% have evidence of this.
  • 70% of organisations are perceived to encourage women as much as men to apply for promotions. 71% of respondents believe they would be treated fairly when applying for promotion.
  • While in theory most organisations support equal pay, in practice only just over one third are perceived as doing so.
  • 56% of respondents feel the pay structures in their organisation are not transparent.
  • Only 4% of companies have conducted an equal pay audit that employees are aware of, yet 62% of respondents said by doing so the company had improved its image in their eyes. 81% think that equal pay audits should be compulsory and 72% say it would encourage them to work for a company.
  • Experience and skills (33% each) are perceived to be the factors most reflected in technology workers pay packets, coming ahead of hours worked (13%), qualifications (12%) and workload (10%).