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Amazon makes plans to increase diversity in its UK business

After research in partnership with Wise, Amazon has launched a number of initiatives to increase diversity in its UK business

Amazon has announced plans to increase diversity in technology and innovation roles across its UK business after it launched research in partnership with Wise, which found that a 10% increase in the number of women in innovation-based roles could boost UK businesses by £3bn.

Some 75% of women working in science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) have reported that working in a male-dominated environment has been a barrier in their career, with other barriers including a lack of confidence and a lack of recognition from senior management, according to Wise.

Helen Wollaston, CEO of Wise, said it was “concerning” that a lack of confidence was cited as one of the biggest barriers deterring women from a career in Stem, adding that confidence develops as a result of support and encouragement.

A number of women have claimed to be put off of a career in technology due to the lack of diversity in the industry. This is not just true of women, but also other under-represented groups such as those in the LGBTQ+ community and black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) individuals.

To address a lack of diversity, both in and outside of the company, Amazon launched Amazon Amplify to encourage more women to consider Stem careers, building on initiatives the company already has in place such as its “affinity” groups for women, LGBTQ+ individuals, BAME and disabled employees.

To help increase the pipeline of women coming into the organisation, the firm has launched a £130,000 Women in Innovation Bursary programme to help up to 24 female students a year pursue a career in technology and innovation.

It will also create a degree apprenticeship programme to help people from different backgrounds train as software engineers or business leaders.

Because of the stereotypes surrounding the technology industry, teachers, parents and children are often not aware what roles are available in the technology industry or what they involve.

Amazon claimed it would begin giving public tours and Stem workshops to children to help them gain a better idea of what it’s like to work in places such as Amazon.

Just as it can be difficult to attract diverse talent to the technology industry, a lack of inclusion can also make diverse talent difficult to retain.

Wise’s research found 26% of women in Stem found more barriers to their careers than enablers, with 66% of women saying they had to overcome challenges in their careers, and only 22% of which said they had support from their employers in doing so.

A majority of respondents said the main enablers for pushing forward with a Stem and innovation career included their personal resilience and self-efficacy.

To support women in its workplace, Amazon has committed to inclusive interview questions, and a UK-wide training programme to help people with confidence-building and other business-related skills.

It has also announced an Amazon Web Services (AWS) Return to Work programme in a bid to allow those who needed a career break to return to the workplace with the help of a coach.

Fiona McDonnell, director of consumer retail at Amazon and chair of the cross-industry Women in Innovation Advisory Committee, said: “Diversity fosters greater innovation and helps raise the bar for customers, and having a diverse workforce is the right thing to do. Our new Amazon Amplify plan aims to attract and retain the best and brightest talent in Britain, ensuring a positive environment in which they can thrive.”

More women are recommending careers in technology to others, and Wise found almost 60% of women in Stem had a feeling of self-achievement from their role, as well as the chance to do exciting work and progress in their careers.  

The Wise and Amazon joint report recommended breaking down barriers across the pipeline to encourage more people into tech. It also recommended reaching out to children and parents, providing accessible and visible role models for students, and creating more support for women in the workplace.

Read more about women in tech

  • The percentage of women on the boards of technology firms has not changed for the past 20 years, with the gap between men and women on boards growing.
  • At the 2019 everywoman in tech forum, experts discussed the connection between the artistic and the technical, as well as the importance of role models in encouraging others into the sector.

Read more on Diversity in IT

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