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Meg Munn MP - Sheffield Heeley's voice in Parliament | Welcome
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Women in Technology Awards

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Meg was invited to present an award and give the keynote speech at the Blackberry ‘Women and Technology Awards 2005’ event in London recently. The speech is below, for further details of the event visit: http://www.womentechawards.com/default.asp


It’s a pleasure to be here tonight at this important event celebrating the contribution of women to the technology industry. This evening provides a tremendous opportunity to identify and applaud women who are forging new ground - we need more occasions where the contribution that women make is recognised.


At the Department for Trade & Industry we know that the talents of too many women are undervalued.  For instance, three quarters of the 290,000 UK women of working age with degrees in science, engineering and technology fail to take up careers in these fields.


A poll by the Institute of Physics showed that seven out of 10 physicists who took a career break did so to have children, the vast majority of them women. But while 34% left jobs in industry to start families, only 14% returned to the same posts - and 55% of those who did go back to the same employer went part time.


Last summer, in partnership with Intellect - the trade association for the UK IT industry - DTI published the latest in a series of Women in IT research reports, “How to retain women in the IT industry”.  I understand that copies are available here.


The report outlines why women in their mid 40s are leaving the sector and provides suggestions on what can be done to prevent this lose - at arguably one of the most productive points in their career. The main reasons given as to why women were leaving the IT sector were:

?        Poor Work-Life Balance

?        An industry culture, or company practice, which does not value the skills which female workers may have a particular strength in - coaching, and team working.


The economic needs of the country, coupled with the desire to help everyone develop their own potential, mean we have to reverse this situation. We have to make sure that these professional women are able to contribute fully at all stages in their careers. Through the Intellect Women in IT Forum, Government will continue to work with industry to push forward the recommendations within the report.


An extremely useful project I want to mention is the UK Resource Centre for Women in Science, Engineering and Technology (UKRC) based at Bradford University. I was able to visit in early September and see for myself the work they do in tackling the under-representation of women in these areas. It works with business to help address skill shortages, and provides practical help and support to girls and women. The UKRC is doing excellent work and I invite you to explore their website if you have not already done so. 


As well as providing nearly £7 million for the UKRC, Government has been aiding schemes such as Computer Clubs for Girls (CC4G) - an initiative created by e-skills UK and funded by the DfES. This scheme aims to raise the standard of girls' ICT skills while transforming girls’ attitudes toward a career in IT. Popular interests such as music, fashion, dance and celebrity have been combined with elements of ICT curricula, to deliver an engaging and fun approach for girls aged 10 to 14. Girls’ experience of technology outside school can be stimulating - like email, the Internet and mobile phones. However, they often do not make the link between these technologies and the varied and rewarding careers in IT.


Technology is a fact of life - we depend on the many and varied forms that it can take, and this dependence grows year on year. That is certain. What is not certain is this country continuing to have companies leading in a number of technology’s different strands. To keep, indeed expand our leading edge we need to use to the full all the talents we have. Ultimately, whether companies decide to diversify their workforce out of a desire to reflect the population - or because they have to in order to attract the skills they need - matters little.


Award ceremony’s such as tonight raise awareness of the talents that women have in technology. Women are an underused, but skilled workforce. My congratulations to Research in Motion, or Blackberry, and the women’s networking group Aurora, for hosting the event. Also to the sponsoring companies. I hope it will be an annual celebration of women in technology.


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