The science and technology industries are vital for the UK economy. But there’s a major STEM skills shortage, with companies around the country struggling to fill vacancies that require skilled workers. At the same time, UK businesses are competing on a global playing field.
As such, government and businesses face a crucial challenge: how do we train, recruit and retain the next generation of highly-skilled workers? While it’s a complex issue, I believe there’s one very clear and important step: let’s attract more women and girls into STEM education and technical qualifications. It’s the only way the UK economy will be able to fire on all cylinders.
Great ideas can happen anywhere, anytime. A diverse workforce is better prepared to spot opportunities. Innovators are great collaborators – they combine old ideas to create something entirely new. And sometimes truly innovative ideas are misunderstood for years before they get the credit they deserve. All of this adds up to a big potential boost for our communities, our companies and our economy.
In fact, research from WISE (the campaign for gender balance in science, technology and engineering) found that a 10 per cent increase of women working in STEM careers would lead to a huge £3bn boost for UK business. It’s also good for women working in innovation, who can earn up to £11,000 a year more compared to other careers. For a company like Amazon, innovation is crucial to our success. And whilst diversity fosters greater innovation and helps raise the bar for customers, ultimately having a diverse workforce is just the right thing to do.
I believe an employer like Amazon has a key role to play, which is why we are building on our existing diversity programmes to launch Amazon Amplify - a new programme designed to both further increase the number of women in tech and innovation roles across the UK business and help inspire the next generation of female innovators. Programmes range from a new UK-wide interactive training programme to support employees with building confidence and self-awareness and being an effective contributor, through to the Amazon Web Services Return to Work programme, which provides people who have been out of the workforce with an opportunity to return to full-time employment with training and coaching on new cloud technology skills.
These types of initiatives are particularly important when you consider WISE’s research which found nine in 10 women working in STEM across the UK and in a variety of sectors experience some barriers to career progression.
To ensure the UK retains its competitive edge, we must place diversity at the heart of innovation and ensure that every industry continues to be powered by a pipeline of diverse talent. The words ‘diversity’ and ‘innovation’ are sometimes overused, but we must not allow their true meanings to become diluted - because for businesses, and the competitiveness of our economy in the UK, they are more relevant than ever before.
We hope that other companies will continue to join us on this journey creating world-class businesses, powered by unique talent, diversity and inclusion. As a nation with a proud tradition of innovation, greater diversity is vital for the future of British industry. With opportunities to shape the modern world and enjoy a varied, hands-on career, attracting more women into science and technology is a win-win.