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The nominations are in for the IT Professionals award for 2004 and the British Computer Society (BCS) has announced the finalists in the Individual Excellence Awards.

The BCS introduced the awards last year to recognise "excellence, professionalism and innovation among IT professionals in the UK".

Interestingly, this year, the BCS has introduced a new category: Women in IT. We say interestingly because a glance through the nominees finds that women are actually pretty well represented in all categories. So what is the award about?

The IT industry does not have many women working in it, or on its periphery (unless you count PR). A survey conducted by E-Skills in February this year found that four out of every five workers in the IT sector were men. Women are therefore less likely, because of their smaller numbers, to be promoted, to senior positions, and often occupy more administrative roles.

This isn't necessarily a bias, but an effect of narrowing a target group. The same principle should hold true for any group - men who are scorpios are less likely to be given awards than just men in general, for example. There may be a bias, but that is a whole different can of wiggly things.

So the British Computer Society has also introduced the Women in IT Award to recognise the companies that give women opportunities to take leadership roles. This is a good move, as it neatly avoids ghetto-ising female IT workers into a separate category, while still drawing attention to the issue.

As the comedian Reginald D Hunter says of the 'Best Black Comedian' award in todays' Independent: "If you are a comedian, don't you want to be the best comedian, not just the best black comedian or the best female comedian?"

Wendy Hall, President of the BCS, says that women are increasingly taking on critical roles within the sector, but overall numbers of women in IT are dropping. She says that the award is about encouraging companies in the UK to "foster an atmosphere that enables women to develop their IT skills and careers, and at the same time inspire more women to step forward into the profession".

The final day of judging in all categories is scheduled for 15 September, and the nominees are all invited to an evening event in London, where they will meet the judging panel. The award ceremony is on 19 October. ®

Related links

Individual Excellence nominees are here Women in IT nominees are here.

Related stories

Why aren't more women in ICT?
Male teleworkers do it all over the place
Sex no bar to geekdom

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