About 37,000 UK women IT professionals left the business between 2001 and 2007, according to a new report by the British Computer Society (BCS).
The total of female computing workers hit a high of 229,440 in 2001 when they made up almost one in four (23 per cent) of the IT workforce. Last year, however, that proportion had dwindled by six per cent to 192,580 in spite of the pool of UK IT pros having grown from 989,120 to 1,034,290 during the same period.
BCS Women's Forum manager Jan Peters said that the BCS findings had been backed up by conversations with businesses.
"There are concerns that they are losing women," she said. "I was talking to an organisation where 40 per cent of its IT department were women and that had fallen to 33 per cent. Women are drifting away from IT or moving to companies that do more to attract them."
Peters added that it was important for companies to employ more women in IT to benefit from different approaches to problem solving. "Women help create a different atmosphere in meetings," she said. "It's not necessarily so aggressive."
Reasons for women leaving IT jobs are unclear but Peters said the decline could in part be explained by women who entered the IT sector at a time of rapid growth and are now taking career breaks. The BCS has published a guide Returners and Re-entrants: Making the Most of a Lost Talent Pool, to help firms appoint and retain female staff.
Another reason could be to do with remuneration. A survey by UK IT trade group Intellect in 2006 suggested that about half of women UK IT workers feel underpaid compared to their male counterparts.