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IP/09/344

Brussels, 3 March 2009

Five major high-tech firms pledge to promote more "Cyberellas"

In today's global financial crisis, jobs in information and communication technologies (ICT) sectors like telecoms and the internet are reliable sources of growth and crucial for the recovery of the economy. However, the EU's competitiveness depends on attracting and keeping skilled workers, especially in the high-tech sector, including women. But while a shortage of around 300,000 qualified engineers is expected in the EU by 2010, less than 1 in 5 computer scientists are women. The European Commission responded in 2007 by encouraging telecoms and internet companies to attract more "cyberellas" – women with ICT skills. As a result, five major ICT companies will today sign a Code of Best Practices for Women and ICT. They are committing to do more to make tech jobs attractive for women and to make better use of and promote female potential in the ICT sector.

"The signing of this Code of Best Practices is a first step towards making high-tech jobs cool for girls and getting more women into the ICT sector. I congratulate those companies that today have the courage and conviction to commit to this Code, that will enrich the ICT sector by making it more female-friendly," said Viviane Reding, EU Telecoms Commissioner. "However, the ICT sector is only starting to realise the scale of the issue and how important it is to attract women, and to close the skills shortage we are facing in Europe. The ICT sector in Belgium currently faces a shortage of 10,100 IT qualified staff, in Poland 18,300, in Italy 2,800, in France 4.300, in Spain 41,800 and in Germany even 87,800! I call on other ICT companies to follow suit and sign the Code for Women and ICT by the end of this year."

Today, Commissioner Reding has overseen the signing of a Code of Best Practices for Women and ICT by five European and multinational companies: ALCATEL-LUCENT, IMEC, ORANGE-FRANCE TELECOM GROUP, MICROSOFT and MOTOROLA. This results from industry talks launched by Commissioner Reding on International Women's Day 2008 (IP/08/392). The Code aims to attract girls at school or university to the high-tech sector but also retain and promote women already working in this sector through:

  • Establishing Girls Labs or Computer Clubs for Girls where girls can develop greater self-confidence when using ICT by creating websites, mixing music or designing online magazines. Code signatories IMEC, Motorola, Orange and Microsoft already have active Girls and Technology labs or summer technology camps. Such clubs also exist in the United Kingdom, and Germany
  • Mentoring programmes during maternity leave which help women on parental leave to keep up-to-date with the latest technological developments, for example as offered by Motorola.
  • Practical help in balancing family and work-life. Companies such as IMEC already offer flexible working hours and home working.
  • Women's ICT forums and networks offering support on job searches, advice and mentoring. Alcatel Lucent is promoting career support for high potential women to fast track them up the career ladder. Microsoft and Motorola also have fully implemented women leadership programmes.
  • Setting targets for the recruitment and promotion of female ICT professionals at all levels and monitoring the achievement of these targets. Code signatory Orange is boosting the recruitment of women by holding the process open until at least one woman has applied.

The European Commission will closely monitor the implementation of this Code and will assess it in a year's time. "Such good practices need to be complemented by firm targets. One practical way to do this is to boost the representation of women in the Boards of ICT companies", said Commissioner Reding. "Today only 7% of board members in the 116 major ICT companies are women. Therefore, let's set ourselves a target to double this by 2015."

Background:

To raise awareness about Europe's female potential for ICT, Commissioner Reding launched in 2007 the "Shadowing Initiative" (IP/07/305) now organised yearly. On a Shadowing Day, young girls follow a successful woman from the ICT sector (engineer, executive or politician) through a typical working day, meet male and female ICT experts and get a taste of what it might be like to work in the ICT sector. In 2008, more than 100 girls took part in this shadowing initiative (IP/08/392).

In October 2008, at the Global Meeting of the Women's Forum for Economy and Society in Deauville, Commissioner Reding met other female leaders from politics and industry calling for more women with ICT skills ('Cyberellas', MEMO/08/631).

Today's signature of the Code of Best Practices on Women and ICT was accompanied by the conference "Cyberellas are IT!" in Brussels where Commissioner Reding presented a short clip on the shadowing exercise which took place in Lyon in November 2008. The videoclip "ICT is wicked" will be distributed to schools around Europe and is available online:

http://212.68.215.195/europa/shadowingday09.wmv

More information can be found at www.ec.europa.eu/itgirls.


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