After working in the tech industry for more than 20 years, Donna Edwards knows what it’s like to be the only woman in the room. She now leverages that experience to serve as a role model for other women—something she feels Amazon Web Services (AWS) empowers her to do.
Edwards, a business development manager in Perth, Australia, is on the AWS Training and Certification team. She saw the need to attract more women to technology careers when she joined the mentoring and training program AWS She Builds, which hosts events that support making tech more diverse. So she helped launch She Builds CloudUp, a program focused on helping women inside and outside of Amazon build cloud computing knowledge while also providing mentors and community, from both inside and outside of AWS. Demand for the program was so strong that it led her team to develop a second program to help prepare participants for the AWS Solution Architect Associate exam, which validates technical expertise in designing and deploying scalable, highly available, and fault-tolerant systems on AWS.
“Over the past 12 months, we’ve had tens of thousands of women register for these programs all around the world, showing how many women are in tech or interested in tech, and how important it is to provide these safe community spaces where women can learn together and have role models,” Edwards said. “Watching women join these programs and build their knowledge and confidence over the eight to 16 weeks is so rewarding and just makes me want to do more and more in this space.”
Edwards is surrounded by women across AWS who share her passions for continuing to increase women’s representation in technology fields. Through employee community and affinity groups, women who work in technology roles at AWS are building more ways to advocate and inspire women and girls to follow a technical career path.
“It is so important to form organizations and teams that have a mix of genders, backgrounds, and personalities so we have ideas that represent all of the communities and customers we serve,” Edwards said.
Inspiring and leading change
Women hold about 26% of tech-related roles in the global workforce, according to Gartner Research. AWS is focused on improving that number through company-driven efforts to increase diverse representation.
AWS employees have amplified and supported company commitments to inclusion, diversity, and equity through their own advocacy that inspires girls and women to pursue education and careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). Numerous STEM-focused employee communities exist within Amazon and AWS, such as Women in Technology, Women in Engineering, Women in AI/ML (artificial intelligence/machine learning), Women in Big Data, and She Builds. With total membership in the tens of thousands, the employee groups provide a sense of community and encourage women at AWS to champion efforts that grow representation.
The AWS GetIT program encourages young students, especially girls, to pursue careers in technology. Additionally, AWS is supporting programs to promote diversity in tech in communities globally. The programs include AWS GetIT, which inspires young students to gain digital skills and consider a career in technology while also empowering women at Amazon and AWS to build more confidence and leadership skills to become greater role models and advocates for inclusion, diversity, and equity in technology. Another program is We Power Tech, which promotes diversity in tech through educational content, partnerships, and programs aimed at helping to support underrepresented tech talent globally.
In 2021, AWS announced a global partnership with Girls in Tech, a nonprofit founded in 2007 dedicated to eliminating the gender gap in tech. The partnership supports the Girls in Tech annual conference, digital career fair, a virtual mentorship program, and other events.
Laura Verghote, an associate technical trainer for AWS global training delivery in London, is involved with AWS GetIT. She has mentored young girls in the UK-based Amazon Longitude Explorer Prize competition, which challenges young people ages 11 to 16 to design, test, and develop tech enterprises for social good. She said AWS’s involvement in these programs echoes the company’s inclusive work culture.
“I feel like AWS puts in a lot of effort to make the workplace as inclusive as possible. It’s also inspiring to have women role models in the leadership of our organization,” Verghote said.
When Dhrithi Uday went to graduate school at the University of Maryland after completing her undergraduate work in India, she felt compelled to advocate for more women to pursue STEM careers. She believes women have to take action to eliminate obstacles for young women and girls.
“We have so many talented young women who can push technology,” said Uday, who works as a wireless network engineer in Seattle on the AWS global events team.
She’s seen excellent programs at AWS that acknowledge and practice inclusion, diversity, and equity. For example, her team honors and celebrates holidays of all cultures, and she found out right from the start that AWS values pay equity.
“My recruiter was very vocal about me getting pay equity that matched my teammates’, based on my experience,” Uday said.
A supportive culture
Ravali Pothireddy, an AWS software development engineer based in Seattle, has been mentoring high school girls entering colleges through the Built by Girls Advisors community group, where more than 750 women working at AWS and Amazon volunteer as mentors for the Built By Girls organization. Pothireddy is personally motivated to mentor aspiring young girls after experiencing a cultural shock when she moved from India to the United States.
“In India, you’d hear things like, ‘You don’t have to worry about your career—you can just get married.’ But here in the U.S. and at AWS, if I say I want to grow my career, I have tons of people telling me what I can do to follow my dreams,” Pothireddy said. “Even in meetings, if the group is mostly men, my manager or senior manager will always ask me for my opinions or if I have something to add—it’s super supportive here.”
Building skills, experience, and confidence
Romy van Es, an AWS partner management solutions architect based in London, is a graduate of AWS Tech U. The program offers recent university graduates around the world paid on-the-job training, mentorship, project-based learning, and real-world problem solving.
She said the program is just one more way AWS is helping women and underrepresented groups develop their experience and confidence in technology roles. After studying physics at her university, where only 4% of the people in her master’s program were women, van Es has developed a personal drive to show girls and women that they can take ownership of their careers and be successful in technical roles.
“I am super passionate about encouraging women to take ownership of their careers and to show them the possibilities they have with their talents, as I know what such support did for me,” van Es said. “Working at AWS, you really notice that ID&E (inclusion, diversity, and equity) is at the core of the culture. It’s present in the way people work together both internally and externally, in the way we provide feedback to each other, and in the mechanisms we have put in place to make sure ID&E is protected.”
To learn more about how AWS is building a workplace where more people can thrive, or to browse open roles, visit Changing the conversation.