Chi Onwurah1

Women in IT are being encouraged to respond to a survey that wants to find out what it is really like to be a working woman in the new millennium.

Project 28-40 has been launched today by Opportunity Now, which campaigns for gender diversity in business. It is looking for 100,000 women to answer questions around the impact of workplace culture on their careers, their ambitions and career development opportunities available to them. The campaign comes after a World Economic Forum report last month, that ranked the UK 18th for gender equality.

Labour shadow cabinet minister Chi Onwurah MP, who is also a qualified engineer, is a champion of women in technology.

She said: "We know that women are hugely under-represented in ICT and we believe we know some of the reasons why, but every woman’s experience in the workplace is unique.

"But in mainstream media, we rarely hear the experiences of women in ICT. Hearing the voices of real women in ICT would help us better understand both the challenges and opportunities. I do hope women in ICT will respond in large numbers."

Opportunity Now said that it wants to hear from women of all ages, on every rung of the career ladder, including those who are no longer working.

"Although the survey will focus on women aged between 28 and 40, as this is the age where women’s career progression slows compared to men, everyone who responds to the survey will help us to create a clearer picture of women’s experiences," Kathryn Nawrockyi, director of Opportunity Now said.

Maggie Berry, founder of the Women in Technology Network, hopes that the survey will drive practical solutions to the problem of diversity in business.

"I hope that the outcome of the survey will provide some real, practical steps and actions that can be undertaken by businesses in the UK to further support women in their careers, including the technology sector, where women still represent less than 20% of the workforce."

Meanwhile Gillian Arnold, chair of BCS Women, part of The Chartered Institute for IT, said: "As the Chartered Institute for IT, we are keen to encourage more young people to consider the IT profession as a career option.

"In particular girls and women are currently under-represented; it’s estimated that women represent under a fifth of ICT managers, 21% of computer analysts, and 14% of software professionals. This is a real threat for the industry and UK plc. With a diverse mix in the working population, the UK IT sector can capitalise on the promise of additional profits and innovation that diversity can bring."

A recent survey found that just 11% of IT security professionals are women, and an analysis of FTSE 350 companies found just 14 were led by female CEOs.

The Project 28-40 survey can be accessed here.