EU Commissioner Viviane Reding said stereotypes that IT careers are "boring and too technical" for women need to be overcome because few young women are taking engineering and technology degrees despite huge demand. The field will need 300,000 qualified workers by 2010 in Europe alone, according to EU estimates.
"We need to bring in more women who are currently underrepresented in this dynamic sector," Reding said. "We need to convince young women ... to prepare for a job in the IT sector, and not to leave this entirely to their male colleagues."
But that will mean a radical change of image.
"We need to show that IT ... is interesting, is mainstream, is part of everyone's daily life -- and that an information and communications technology career is a choice for a creative person," she said.
Reding said the EU could help by having girls shadow older female technology professionals who work for companies such as Finnish cell phone maker Nokia and French satellite maker Thales Alenia Space to learn what the industry is all about.
Europe's IT industry also could set up a code later this year that commits to making changes to create a good working environment and attract qualified staff, she said.