Inclusivity and Diversity in STEM
AWS GetIT Programme
Written by Emily Clark, Head of AWS GetIT, Future Foundations
It’s been nearly ten months since I first started working at Future Foundations and the AWS GetIT programme and things look a lot different from when I first started. I am currently in my living room, alongside thousands of others who have found the ‘new normal’ of working from home, joining online video calls and suffering from what some now call ‘zoom hangovers’.
We are still in the middle of a global pandemic, and the world looks and feels very different. With isolation and lockdown, the Black Lives Matter movement and protests across the world, we at Future Foundations are dedicated to addressing discrimination and oppression and raising our voices. As an organisation whose mission is to ‘inspire young people to achieve their full potential and become socially conscious leaders in their lives and within society’, we remain committed to reflecting, having ongoing dialogue, taking actions and sharing knowledge and opportunities to make social change.
AWS GetIT Programme
The AWS GetIT programme has an important role to play in recognising and supporting diversity. The awareness of these issues, as an organisation and partner of the AWS GetIT programme that directly works with schools, prompts us to ask more questions about the young people we work with and how we support them to access the programme.
One of the concerns for the STEM sector is the under-representation of groups with particular characteristics, and how we as a society in general can influence to effect positive change. These underrepresented groups in science include people who are Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic (BAME), people with low socioeconomic status, people living with a disability and girls and women. Research shows us that girls, women, and those who are less affluent often have poorer access than others to STEM education and careers.
The GetIT programme is an initiative designed by Amazon Web Services (AWS) to encourage girls aged 12-13 to consider a career in tech – challenging long standing gender stereotypes. The competition invites students from different schools to enter an app-building competition that solves a real issue faced by their school or community.
We believe that early intervention is essential for laying the foundation for future learning and we invite teams made up of at least 50% females – we want boys be involved and take part, but also be part of the conversation around the underrepresentation of girls in tech and be real champions for change! Any school can take part in the competition, and we set our self-diversity targets to ensure certain boroughs, in more deprived areas in the London are encouraged to apply.
Along the way, participants learn practical digital and IT skills, experience working as a team, gain self-confidence by presenting ideas to wider audiences, all while being exposed to IT as a potential career. Students also have a dedicated female ambassador who works for AWS or Amazon and supports and mentors them throughout the competition. The programme is fully funded, and schools that might have barriers to participating i.e. travel to events can apply to a bursary fund to support with expenses.
As an organisation that works within the education sector, we see that career aspirations from age seven to 17 are marginal and too often based on gender stereotypes and that girls tend to not put their hands up as much as boys and feel that they don’t have a voice or get as much attention. This is one of the reasons why girls don’t tend to take STEM subjects on further than GCSEs, as they don’t imagine themselves in a career in tech, don’t have the role models and lack the confidence and belief in themselves to follow this path.
By investing in young people, especially girls regardless of social background, where they live or what kind of jobs their parents have, AWS GetIT aims to level the playing field and move the needle. Our programme gives young people the same chance to meet people in the technology sector, helps them understand the array of opportunities available and encourages them to start thinking big and hopefully bring about a positive change!
Recruitment is open for 2020-21 and we are expanding our programme in the UK and into Ireland! If you are a school based in London, Manchester, Cambridge, Bristol, Brighton, Edinburgh or Dublin then apply to the programme by clicking here.
If due to schools’ closures and social distancing you have concerns, please let us know – our priority is to ensure everyone can access and take part in the programme and we are planning to deliver some parts online, if necessary.