Dame Athene Donald, Professor of Experimental Physics and Master of Churchill College at the University of Cambridge, kicked off a new season of the external speaker series at the Amazon Development Centre in Cambridge this week.
For two years, Amazon and Churchill College have been working together to encourage more young women to pursue a career in innovation and technology through the Amazon Women in Innovation Bursary.
As one of the first female lecturers in physical sciences at the University of Cambridge, Professor Dame Athene Donald has championed the cause of diversity in academia for many years. Her talk at Amazon’s new development centre focused on how systemic changes can bring better gender equality in the workplace.
We all have our own biases, but we need to tease them out so that they are no longer unconscious but seen for what they are
“For too long the approach to 'fixing' the paucity of women progressing to high levels has been 'fix the women'. That is not good enough. We need to fix the system so that a career path and a style of behaviour that is 'male by default' do not continue to dominate our workplaces.”
Collecting data on diversity, identifying differences in how men and women are progressing in similar roles, and clearly advertising parental leave choices were some of the practical steps organisations could take.
It is also important for individuals to be conscious of any unconscious bias. “We all have our own biases, but we need to tease them out so that they are no longer unconscious but seen for what they are,” said Dame Athene.
The Amazon Women in Innovation Bursary aims to help young women from less advantaged backgrounds fulfil their ambitions of a career in innovation and technology. The bursary is awarded to six students annually in universities in cities where we have a Development Centre, including the University of Edinburgh, King’s College London and Churchill College at the University of Cambridge. All students are on courses that focus on high-tech innovation, including Electronic Engineering, Robotics & Intelligent Systems, and Computer Science.