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Amazon reveals funding scheme to get more women into tech

Ahead of International Women's Day, the tech giant is offering £130k annual bursaries and fresh apprenticeships

Amazon has unveiled plans to help get more women into tech and innovation jobs with initiatives for boosting diversity and removing the barriers that limit their careers.

The announcement, which comes ahead of International Women's Day on Friday, is the result of a partnership with action group Wise, which campaigns for gender balance in science, tech and engineering. The partnership was forged to help 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 ten women experienced barriers in their career.

The initiative includes a 130,000 annual bursary for female students, apprenticeship schemes and open tours of the company's offices for children. There is also an AWS return to work scheme for women that have been out of a job for two or more years.

Writing in the Telegraph, Amazon's consumer retail director Fiona McDonnell, who also serves as chair of the cross-industry Women in Innovation Advisory Committee, said that gender diversity made sense on many levels and is simply being the right thing to do.

"Gender representation in innovation must remain a priority across the UK," she said. "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."

For that next generation, Amazon is introducing a set of initiatives to improve diversity at its management level. This will include inclusive interview questions which assess potential candidates not only on competence but also on their commitment to diversity.

There is also a return to work programme with AWS, to help women transition back into the workplace. Successful applicants will benefit from coaching to build professional self-belief, help with creating an effective work/life balance, support with networking and self-marketing and planning out a future within AWS. Going further, line managers will also be trained to provide extra support and development for returning workers.

Just last month Amazon announced it would create over 1,000 apprenticeships in the UK over the next two years, many of which will be based in the company's machine learning and software development units. The programmes are designed for workers of all levels interested in IT, software engineering, robotics and general technology jobs.

But today's announcement is solely aimed at women, who are often not supported within technology.

"It's been well publicised that the technology industry needs to do more to improve female representation and encourage the next generation of women to pursue careers in technology," said Carolyn Horne, global VP of Northern Europe and South Africa at Workday.

"Within the industry, female CEOs represent just 5% of the Fortune 500 and just 1 in 5 computer science graduates are women."

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