Women account for only 30% of Europe's seven million people working in the information and communication technology sector, but boosting their number will be an economic necessity. The sector creates 120,000 new jobs each year and at this rate there will be up to 700,000 unfilled ICT-related vacancies by 2015. Experts discussed how to attract more women during an EP meeting organised by the industry and women's rights committees on the occasion of Girls in ICT Day on 25 April.
Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook's chief operating officer who joined the meeting via tele-conference, warned: "The lack of women in leadership and the lack of women in ICT has a huge economic cost to our society. If you look at ICT, that loss of employment is happening because there are not enough people in those fields to fill the jobs." Ms Sands pointed out that for every 1,000 women with a bachelor's degree in Europe, only 29 hold an IT degree. Of those 29, only four work in the ICT sector.
The meeting also discussed topics such as the best ways to promote female talent, the industry's responsibility for driving change and how to tackle gender stereotypes. Ms Sandberg stressed the importance of a cultural change: "Next time you're about to say your little girl is bossy, say instead: your little girl has executive leadership skills."
Her views were echoed by other participants. Amalia Sartori, an Italian member of the EPP group who chairs the industry committee, said: "We don't have enough women working in telecommunications and we have very few in decision making positions." Neelie Kroes, vice-president of the European Commission in charge of the digital agenda, said: "Once Marilyn Monroe was singing that diamonds are a girl's best friend. Well, these days that is not true. ICT skills are a girl's best friend. And I can assure you, if you have them, then the diamonds will follow."