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AWS Boosts Support for Girls in Tech’s Inclusivity Efforts

Cloud services provider increases backing for group aimed at further shrinking the gender gap in the technology workforce.

Expanding on its relationship with Girls in Tech, Amazon Web Services says it plans to back a plethora of programs with the organization to make the tech space more representative of the populace. The deeper connection means AWS will back Girls in Tech’s annual conference and other initiatives, including a re-launched virtual mentorship program and the Amplify startup pitch competition.

Diversity and inclusivity continue to be discussed across the tech sector and this collaboration is just one example of the effort to encourage and empower more women to pursue careers in technology -- a space where women make up just 26% of computer scientists worldwide by estimates cited by Girls in Tech and AWS.

The goal of the elevated partnership with Girls in Tech is to narrow the gap in gender representation among women in this career field, says LaDavia Drane, head of global inclusion, diversity, and equity with AWS. “This collaboration provides the opportunity for networking and mentorship relationships in order for us to help Girls in Tech’s overall mission to decrease that gap,” she says.

AWS plans to have some of its team members serve as speakers for Girls in Tech’s annual conference, career fair, and hackathon, Drane says. This is an ongoing effort to change the ratio of women in technology roles, which will also include mentorship that cannot take place during shot-term events, she says. “The goal is for this partnership to be year-round. The mentorships will help with that.”

Drane says women make up 40% of Amazon's workforce and they regard mentorship through groups such as Girls in Tech as a priority. “You’ll see our technologists showing up in a major way to make sure Adriana’s goals are directly tied to us and we are helping her to meet those goals,” she says.

Adriana Gascoigne, founder and CEO of Girls in Tech, says her organization got its start in 2007 with a focus on empowering women and eliminating the gender gap within tech. The organization’s efforts include career development, increased exposure to opportunities, and education, she says.

These days there are many other organizations and forums that support the inclusion and advancement of women in tech careers, such as the Women in IT Summit, Girls Who Code, and Black Girls Code. Gascoigne says Girls in Tech wants to help women advance in many professions that fall under the tech umbrella.  The curriculum her organization offers is meant to speak to the breadth of professions across STEM fields. “We’re not just focused on software developers or women with a technical background,” Gascoigne says. “We’re also focused on product developers, product marketers, business development, and sales.”

Girls in Tech operates internationally with chapters in 54 cities in 37 countries across six continents, she says. “Right now, we’re really focusing more of our efforts in underserved regions within Africa and Central and Latin America.”

The organization has created customized programs to support those campaigns, which includes virtual hackathons and a three-month, virtual mentorship that matches mentees with seasoned professionals.

Gascoigne says Girls in Tech has worked previously with AWS though this latest collaboration is more robust, especially when it comes to its annual conference slated for September, which typically draws more than 10,000 members. “With AWS’s support, we’re able to produce these programs in a seamless way,” she says, which may include drawing on the global presence of AWS to make resources available to chapters around the world.

Other initiatives Girls in Tech is tackling these days include the Half the Board campaign, which Gascoigne says highlights the need for corporations to aim for 50-50 gender representation on their boards by 2025. “Sandy Carter, who is involved on our board and is an executive at AWS, was one of the first signers of this open letter we issued,” she says.

Change in tech is being driven not only by demands of those who have been underrepresented in this arena but the needs of the market, according to Gascoigne. “There’s a company called CultureAmp that we work with extensively -- they basically do an audit of how companies are faring in terms of diverse recruitment,” she says. This includes training programs for management and employees, policies for hiring, and focusing on diversity, equity, and inclusivity. “Times ae changing,” Gascoigne says, “and companies need to be held accountable and employees can now be picky about that.”

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