Information Technology (Women)

Trade and Industry written question – answered on 12th February 2004.

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Photo of Stephen O'Brien Stephen O'Brien Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, Shadow Secretary of State for Industry

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what target her Department has set for the number of women working in information and communication technology; and what strategy her Department has to achieve this target.

Photo of Stephen Timms Stephen Timms Minister of State (e-Commerce & Competitiveness)

The Department of Trade and Industry does not have any targets specific to women working in information and communication technology, but is working to increase the participation of women in this sector, as well s others through the work of a new dedicated Resource Centre for Women in science, engineering and technology (SET). The Resource Centre is part of the Government's Strategy, published in April 2003 as a response to Baroness Greenfield's SET Fair Report. The Government will look to the new Resource Centre to carry out specific tasks in support of its overarching objective to work with employers to improve the position of women in SET: recognition for good SET employers; the sharing of good employment practice; disseminating and sharing information; setting up and maintaining an expert women's database; maintaining and disseminating statistics; raising the profile of women in SET; pump-priming innovation through developing, with others, support for initiatives such as mentoring, networking, speaker's bursaries and mobility issues; supporting returners; and coordinating the work of women in science organisations. It will draw on the experience of women and women in science organisations to do this and co-ordinate their activity to achieve critical mass.

The JIVE Consortium has been chosen to run the resource centre. This is a consortium of Sheffield Hallam University, Bradford College, the Open University and Cambridge University through its WiSETI (Women in Science, Engineering and Technology) Project. Between them they have extensive knowledge of, and standing in, all the sectors of SET (including ITEC) and the built environment. The Government is providing funding of £800,000 per annum to cover all the activities of the centre. Additional funding of £500,000 is available to the resource centre for a returners' scheme, to gather feedback on existing schemes as soon as it can, and develop a strategic plan for the future investment of these additional funds. DfES will also contribute £200,000 to the Resource Centre for schemes aimed at undergraduates. The Consortium members proposed to deliver a Resource Centre that represents all sectors in which there are high levels of occupational segregation for women in science, engineering, technology, and the built environment and intend to be relevant to all women whether working at professional, technician or craft level.

It will be important for the centre to work in partnership with professional SET bodies and others in the SET community, with organisations such as the CBI, the TUC, large and small employers, and the Sector Skills Councils (SSCs). The new centre will be expected to raise funds from other sources both private and public. It is expected that organisations that want partnership with an support from the resource centre will contribute resources, both to specific projects and to allow the centre to operate more widely, to maximise the leverage of the initial public finding to the centre.

To increase the number of women who can maintain their SET carers and are able to return after a career break, as well as achieve their potential through promotion and engagement in policy making circles, they need access to opportunities for self- development, and to meet people who can introduce them to these opportunities. Mentoring is acknowledged as a key tool in personal development and empowerment. The Promotion SET for Women Unit is funding a pilot three-year national mentoring scheme for women in SET. The Project is being delivered through two organisations—the Women's Engineering Society and the Association of Women in Science and Engineering. Four blue chip companies including Astra Zeneca, BAE Systems, Demag Delaval Industrial Turbomachinery Ltd. and Ford are also supporting the project. The pilot mentoring scheme will use industrial mentoring training programmes in order to train mentors and prepare mentees. They project is well under way and over 60 mentors and mentees have been matched, and mentoring has commenced.

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