Gender diversity in innovation is not just the right thing to do, it also makes business sense
Fiona McDonnell, Director, Consumer Retail, Amazon
The contributions of women to technology are frequently left out of history books. During the Second World War and up until the mid-60s, women were well-represented and were the largest trained technical workforce of the computing industry. However, today women make up just 22 per cent of those in core STEM occupations in the UK and 25 per cent of those working in core STEM industries. While the trends are positive, with the number of women gradually rising, it’s time for UK business to put its foot on the accelerator in the journey to achieving greater gender parity in UK innovation.
Last year, we partnered with WISE (the campaign for gender balance in science, tech and engineering) to help create a roadmap to increase the number of women working in STEM roles. After polling over one thousand women working in innovation roles in different sectors across the UK, the research found that nine out of 10 women experienced barriers in their career, with over a quarter experiencing more barriers than enablers. Once women enter these important roles, many say they are not receiving support. Six-in-10 admit to having to overcome challenges on their own to remain successful in their careers. At the same time, the report found that just a 10 per cent increase in female representation would generate £3bn for UK businesses.
Gender diversity makes sense on many levels. It brings new thinking, fosters greater innovation, helps companies understand the needs of a diverse customer base, and it is simply the right thing to do. Gender representation in innovation must remain a priority across the UK. That’s why we’ve built on our existing diversity programmes to launch Amazon Amplify – a new programme designed to further increase the number of women in technology and innovation roles across our UK business and help inspire the next generation of female innovators.
To ensure that Amazon attracts and retains the most talented women, we are introducing a set of initiatives that will complement the diversity and inclusion training all managers receive, including: inclusive interview questions which assess potential candidates not only on competence but also on their commitment to diversity; a new UK-wide interactive training programmes to support employees’ personal and professional development; and the AWS Return to Work programme, which will provide individuals with robust onboarding and coaching as they transition back into the workplace.
The innovation economy is a fast-growing industry with a range of opportunities. We recently announced plans to create capacity for an additional 1,000 R&D roles across our UK development centres, and just last month we announced we would create over 90-degree apprentices, including apprenticeships in software development and automation engineering. We’re actively recruiting, as are other innovative businesses.
I hope, over the coming years, we will receive more applications for STEM roles from talented women as we build our teams across the UK – and that companies across the UK find new ways to hire more women into STEM roles. As Grace Hopper, a pioneer of computer programming, famously said, “The most dangerous phrase in our language is, ‘We’ve always done it this way’”. She’s right. So let’s create change.
This piece was originally published in The Telegraph. Read it here.
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