Equality Commission urges end to sex discrimination in IT
The 'A' Star Awards are aimed at tackling the gender imbalance and skills shortage in computing. They are sponsored and organized by international Help Desk and IT Service Management software firm Axios Systems (www.axiossystems.com). The 12 girls scoring the highest marks in this year's 'A' Level or Scottish Advanced Higher Computing examinations will qualify for the UK tiebreaker final. Chair of the Equal Opportunities Commission Julie Mellor commented, "There is a pressing need to encourage more girls to think about careers in IT and the 'A' Star Awards are an excellent way of achieving this.” "Choosing a career is a crucial step for girls and 'A' Levels are an ideal time for them to consider all available options, including those outside sectors traditionally associated with females. The Awards are a most helpful and appropriate initiative which reflects the aims of our own 'What's stopping you?' campaign to end stereotyping in the workplace." The Commission is keen for people to have the widest possible choices and not to be limited by assumptions based on their sex. "We would like to see more girls as computing professionals as it's an area in which they can do particularly well. It's important that we make sure that girls are kept positive about IT from an early age so that when the time comes to make decisions about their futures, a career in IT is still a valid option," Ms Mellor added. The 'A' Star Awards are backed by all six principal exam awarding bodies in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales. The top prizes are due to be presented in Manchester in November at Skills City 2002, an event expected to attract 50,000 visitors. According to the Department of Trade and Industry, women in the UK make up just 22% of people working in IT, compared to 38% in Europe and 45% in the USA. Females account for only 23% of students taking Computing 'A' Levels. Ailsa Symeonides, Sales & Marketing Director of Axios Systems, said the EOC's support was particularly gratifying since it underlined the wider implications of ending sexual discrimination in the workplace. "The Commission was the first sex equality agency in Europe and we're proud and delighted to have the backing of an organization which is doing so much to help women fulfill their potential," she said.