Currently only 10% of the total IT workforce in the Netherlands are female. The country wants to change that and it has a special new initiative in place.

The Netherlands once had a leading spot and lots of women were working in IT. The Eniac computer in the USA and the Arra in the Netherlands for example were operated and programmed by women.  According to classic surveys, 65% of the 2000 computer operators in 1960 were female. A decade later though more and more men started working in IT, ComputerWeekly reports.

Recent research by the European Commission shows that women who complete courses in engineering are then employed in their field less often than men who have the same degree.  Also, quite a lot of women leave the profession and seek to start a family and raise children. The issue in the Netherlands particularly is that women are usually required to work full-time in IT, science and engineering, but can work part-time as three-quarters of working women in the country do.

So the country is beginning a new initiative to make IT more attractive for women and increase their involvement in the sector. VHTO will choosing women from the IT field who will visit primary and secondary schools and talk to students.

“Firstly, there is the cultural aspect. Girls in our country are not encouraged to choose technical studies. Then there are economic reasons. In the Netherlands, we have done very well and there is no need for both the husband and wife to work. It is widely accepted for highly educated women to stop working or to work less if there are children,” says Geke Rosier, founder of Female Ambassadors in IT and director of Right Brains.

She says there is a negative image tied to the IT sector for women. It is combined with a lack of emphasis on digital in training courses. “We have studies for computer science, mathematics and business administration, but digitisation is not integrated, despite it being the norm today”, she adds.

“IT is no longer merely technology or zeros and ones. There is a growing need for people who can bridge the gap between technology and business. Making connections is typically a feminine trait, as is communication”, comments Jannie Minnema, business director of business operations and strategy, Europe, the Middle-East and Africa at Oracle.

There will be special changes to the Dutch educational system as well. “A lot of Dutch schools lack IT-education, they don’t have the subject computer science, so young girls do not come into contact with the subject. They are less able to make an informed choice about their career. The whole Dutch primary and secondary education needs to be thoroughly revised when it comes to computer science,” says Minnema.

Lotte de Bruijn, director of Nederland ICT, agreed with her. “Computer science has to be anchored in the Dutch education,” she said.

Would all of that lead to an increased interest from girls to choose an IT career remains to bee seen. But it is a commendable effort to put in place so many opportunities and let everyone be free to choose the best career for them.

Image credit: Flickr (CC) / United States Mission Geneva

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