Some 20,000 jobs in the German IT industry are vacant but the male dominated sector has traditionally attracted few women and the little appeal the industry does have may be declining, a study showed.

“Important infrastructure such as the health sector, traffic or energy need to be modernised with IT and communication technology,” August-Wilhem Scheer, head of German technology and telecoms association Bitkom said on Wednesday. “The demand for skilled workers to make that change happen is enormous,” he said and added that “we need to get young women interested in tech jobs early on.” However, a study by Bitkom and research firm Forsa showed that last year only 9 percent of the 40,500 trainees in the sector were women.

By comparison, in 2001 the percentage of female trainees was 14 percent. At universities, of the 126,000 studying computer sciences last year 15 percent were women. While parents are increasingly recommending their children to consider a career in the IT industry, some prejudice remains. “One out of five parents believe computer scientists have a very high work load and little opportunity to advance their careers,” Bitkom said the study also found. “Many preconceptions can be easily corrected,” Scheer said. “The image of the lonely programmer who spends his nights in a basement and cannot find a partner is really dated,” he said. The IT-industry offered plenty of career opportunities and innovative family-friendly work models, Scheer explained. The IT association repeatedly holds so-called Girls' Days to spark interest in young women for a future in the IT industry. Some companies have taken initiatives to attract more female staff. Deutsche Telekom said last month it wants to support women's careers and has introduced a quota system to ensure a third of its upper and middle management positions will be held by women by 2015. Software maker SAP set a rare example last week when it named its first female board member, making the software maker Germany's second blue-chip company to appoint a woman to its top management after engineering group Siemens.