But imagine how much more effective the sector would be if it actually used the talent available to it. Today, less than 30 percent of the information, communication and technology (ICT) workforce is female and the number of female computing graduates has been dropping in Europe for years. Out of 1,000 women with a bachelor’s degree in Europe, only 29 have a degree in ICT (compared to 95 men). Only four of those women will eventually work in the ICT sector. That’s leading us down a dangerous path.
Not only are we facing an overall digital skills gap in advanced economies, but we are creating a seriously unbalanced part of the economy: only 9 in every 100 European app developers are female.
We know for a fact that this is a missed economy opportunity. In the European economy alone we lost out on a potential $12.5 billion in 2013, according to a European Commission study on women in the ICT sector, because we didn’t do enough to include women in this field.
To compound the problem, more women than men leave the sector mid-career. Women are also particularly under-represented in managerial and decision-making positions. Only 19 percent of ICT bosses are women—much lower than the 45 percent frequently achieved in other sectors.
It’s not because women don’t enjoy their ICT careers. Our research shows women entrepreneurs in the ICT sector are more satisfied with their jobs, have a stronger feeling of a job well done and earn more than non-entrepreneurs in the ICT sector.
It is therefore important to have role models to show that it is possible and desirable for women to start and stick to a tech career—women like Monique Morrow, Lindsey Nefesh-Clarke and Sofia Stevenson, who are helping to launch a video campaign showing women loving their life in tech.
Monique Morrow explains how she went from being a good problem-solver to having a high-level job with Cisco Systems. Lindsey Nefesh-Clarkedescribes how she’s helping to connect girls and their countries, such as Bangladesh, to the digital era. Sofia Svantesontalks about the company she set up, Ocean Observations, to bring design into the tech world.
If you’re a woman working in tech, we also want to hear from you. Join the campaign by uploading your video on the Every Girl Digital Facebook page. The video doesn’t have to be professional—it just has to tell your story.
It took me years to realize that I could be useful as a role model to women interested in politics. I am now convinced that the more women we have sharing stories, successes and problems, the faster we will close the gender gap in all sectors.
Neelie Kroes is vice-president and commissioner for the digital agenda at the European Commission @NeelieKroesEU This article first appeared on the WEF blog.