Just one quarter (26%) of those working in the digital sector are female, new research shows.
The findings, released today by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES), show the proportion of women is down from 33% in 2002 – far below the UK average of 47%.
The shortfall comes at a time where skilled staff are in high demand: the research found there were a higher proportion of vacancies in digital and creative than across the economy as a whole, with high-level roles such as programmers and web developers remaining unfilled.
The industries now face a battle for talent, as projections suggest that 1.2m people will be needed to fill jobs in the sector by 2022.
Karen Price, Director of the Tech Partnership, a network of employers working on digital skills, said: “The UK is a world leader in the digital and creative industries. Our software development, visual effects and computer games companies are some of the best there are, and we want to keep them that way. That means that we need to make sure talented people fill the jobs that we’ll need to keep growing.
“The news that female entrants to the digital sector are falling is very disappointing. We want to show women and girls that there are great opportunities in the digital sector, and that the rewards are great too.
“It’s key that we influence girls from a young age and our TechFuture Girls programme aims to get girls of 10 to 14 engaged with computer skills and IT through after-school clubs. In 2022 these girls will be making choices about further study and careers, and making sure they know how important digital skills are is vital.”
The research suggests such a high volume of vacancies cause more than just increased workloads for employees, with 40% of employers reporting that they had lost business due to not being able to fill posts.
More than 2 million people are employed in digital and creative industries, with the sector worth £137bn to the UK annually.
UKCES research also finds jobs within the sector to be highly productive and well paid, with average earnings up to 25% higher than the UK average.
Digital Economy Minister Ed Vaizey said: “The UK’s Digital and Creative Industries are amongst our biggest success stories, but for them to continue to flourish we must make sure the next generation of talent is being taught, trained and nurtured. Initiatives like TechFuture Girls that encourage young women to consider a career in this dynamic sector will play an important role in addressing this issue.”