Providing flexi-time, a mentoring programme and a clear process for promotions would all help to encourage women into the IT sector.

That is according to Jerri Barrett, director of marketing at the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology, who made her comments following new research which revealed that just 19 per cent of IT professionals are women.

She explained that women view professional development as an important aspect of their career and Ms Barrett urged companies to adopt "career development policies and practices training" to encourage more female workers to enter the profession.

Commenting on the value of flexible working hours, she said: "Flex-time is a highly valued benefit for women. Creating a culture that encourages flexible scheduling is key to retaining women, and many men."

A research project entitled Women in IT Scorecard aimed to uncover the drivers behind the lack of women in the IT profession.

It revealed that there is a 14 per cent gender pay gap between 16 to 29 year olds in the IT industry.