Women in information and communication technologies

According to statistics, 30 percent of Czech households have computers and 19 percent have an internet connection. Computers are mostly used by people between the age of 15 and 24 and there is also a marked difference between the use of computers by men and women. Women and information and communication technologies (or ICTs) is the topic of today's Czech Science.

A recent study by Women's Networking Support Programme, a global organisation supporting women's empowerment through the use of ICTs, has found that women in the Czech Republic are underrepresented both as users of computers and employees in the ICT business. Lenka Simerska of Women's Networking Support Programme.

"The situation is similar in all countries in Central and Eastern Europe. Women in ICTs are very low represented and in fact, the situation is getting worse because of low numbers of girls interested in studying technical subjects at universities."

Lenka Simerska has an explanation for the declining trend.

"I think that's an interesting question because the numbers in fact are getting down - they were higher in the past 20 years and it is interesting to see why the motivation now is not so great. I think there are a lot of gender stereotypes in the families and in the education system that are discouraging girls from following their interests which might be in the technical subjects."

Professor Vlasta Strizova teaches at Prague's Faculty of Informatics and Statistics.

"The problems is that at the end of the 1950s was a boom. We didn't have so many students in general, but some 40-45 percent were girls, women. And in a short time they found that this IT orientation is very technological and the number dropped down."

In fact, currently only 5 percent of information technology students in the Czech Republic are women. Are there any projects underway that try to attract more girls to study information technologies? Lenka Simerska Women's Networking Support Programme.

"Yes, there are, maybe not so great on the level of the direct communication and motivation of girls at schools. There is a gap in this level of projects but I think that there are more and more projects taking place on the level of the state and non-governmental organisations who are motivating women to take part in ICT."

It is widely acknowledged that a diverse workforce can bring advantages to businesses. How can women contribute to ICTs? Lenka Simerska again.

"This is being discussed since the women's movement started to appear. It's a question whether technologies would look the same if women were there developing hardware and software since the beginning because women definitely bring different qualities into the whole thing and also we should acknowledge that ICT are a great labour market and very dynamic sector of the economy and there are great opportunities for women to get employment and women should not be prevented from these opportunities."