IBM to co-star in women in IT campaign
The world's largest information technology company joins Accenture as a co-sponsor of the Awards which are aimed at encouraging more women to take up careers in IT and redress male domination of the industry. Less than one-quarter of UK computing professionals - and under 10% of programmers - are women.
The 'A' Star Awards are organised by main sponsor Axios Systems, the international Help Desk and IT Service Management software supplier. They are backed by the UK Government, all the country's principal examination awarding bodies and a range of other organisations and lobby groups.
"Our commitment to the attraction and career advancement of women is a core strategy for business success in today's competitive market place," said Paul Rodgers, Human Resources Director of IBM UK.
"IBM has decided to support the A Star Awards competition as part of its ongoing strategy to improve the diversity of its work force and encourage more young women to think about careers within the IT industry," he went on. "We feel that initiatives such as this will enable bright young women to show just how much technical ability they have and enable them to explore the many different IT careers available to them."
Mr Rodgers said that organisations which could deliver strong diversity programmes would recruit and retain the top talent. "The goals of the 'A' Star Awards are closely aligned with our own policies and practices, and we are delighted to be associated with the initiative," he commented.
IBM's diversity programmes include 'Mindset Workshops' in which senior managers work with female employees to develop business-specific strategies to support the attraction, retention and advancement of women. The company has also invested $50m in a Global Work/Life Fund which conducts activities such as technology summer camps for employees' daughters, dependent care assessment for employees' children and parents, and work/life balance training throughout the workforce.
Around the world, IBM runs EXITE (Exploring Interests in Technology and Engineering) camps for girls of 13 and 14, and half-day Women in IT workshops in schools.
Ailsa Symeonides, Sales and Marketing Director of Axios Systems who devised the 'A' Star Awards, said IBM's decision to become a key sponsor "is tremendous news for efforts to unlock the potential of women in the IT industry."
"More and more organisations are realising that IT needs far more women if it is to overcome its current skills shortage in certain areas," she commented. "The industry needs not only to recruit greater numbers of women but ensure they occupy more senior roles. Females tend to occupy relatively junior posts in IT whereas in many cases they are just as capable as their male counterparts."
'A' Star finalists are selected on the basis of their marks in 'A' Level or Scottish Advanced Higher Computing examinations. Their tiebreaker entries will be judged by a panel of independent experts who last year included British Computer Society Chief Executive David Clarke and Equal Opportunities Commissioner Tesse Akpeki.
The top prizes will include cash, a laptop computer and an all-expenses-paid trip to the USA.