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Reducing the Gender Digital Divide in Skills and Employment
Bielefeld, 11-12 December 2000

A major difficulty facing Germany, as in other EU countries, is a shortage of workers with information technology skills. The expanding information technology sector as well as traditional sectors where information technology is used as a tool are affected by this shortage. In this situation, the deep - and deepening - gender gap in technology education and employment at all levels is a serious problem.

Across the European Union, young women are better educated today than ever before. In Germany for example, in 1995, the number of young women entering university overtook men for the first time in history. Yet despite rising levels of achievement by women in education and training generally, some sectors remain largely male strongholds. Among these are engineering and technology, where women are the minority on university and occupational training courses, and in industry. Indeed in some countries, including Germany and Finland, the proportion of women taking information technology courses has fallen over the last 20 years.

The problem is worrying not only for economic growth, but also for gender equality. In spite of the demand for people with IT skills, it appears that women are being excluded from the growing scientific, engineering and IT sector, offering high wages and dynamic career structures.

The strategy of the Competence Centre (Kompetenzzentrum) "Women in Information Society and Technology" focuses not only on encouraging women into technical training and occupations, but places great emphasis on involving employers, in changing attitudes to the traditional gender division of labour and to making visible and valuing the technical competencies of female workers. Since Autumn 1999, more than 40,000 women have taken part in courses organised by its Putting Women on the Net project and the website has registered nearly 5 million hits.

Established in April 2000 as an independent public-private partnership, the Competence Centre is backed by federal government funding. Based at the Bielefeld University of Applied Sciences in Germany, it collects information, co-ordinates projects and supports networks to increase the proportion of women working in the information technology and engineering sectors. The peer countries - Austria, Denmark, Finland, and Spain - demonstrated considerable interest in the centre and in its approach. While situations vary in the different countries, it was clear from the papers and the discussions at the peer review meeting that the experiences of the Competence Centre can be of great importance in the search for effective solutions to the gender digital gaps in information technology qualifications and employment.

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Executive Summary
Independent experts' paper


  • Kompetenzzentrum Bielefeld
  • Project "Putting Women on the Net"
  • Project to attract girls to ICT-training
  • Project for female University students in engineering studies
Participating independent experts



Institute for Advanced Studies, Vienna


Kim Benzon KNUDSEN

National Centre for Research and Information on Gender Equality

Finland Anna-Maija LEHTO Statistics Finland



Technische Universität Darmstadt



Almenara, Estudios Económicos y Sociales, S.L.

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