A common complaint about the technology industry is that it is too male and too pale. While true, unfortunately discussion about the sector's diversity problem often comes at the expense of focusing on solutions.

However, how you attract and promote a more diverse pool of people into the industry is a question some of its biggest players are finally starting to seriously grapple with.

Fatima Jouini (right)
Fatima Jouini (right)

One approach is to try and reach girls, women and other under-represented groups earlier on in their education, before their career path is set.

One such scheme is Amazon's Women in Innovation Bursary, an award worth up to £30,000 that aims to help young women from less advantaged backgrounds to pursue a tech career. Recipients also receive mentoring from a female member of staff at Amazon and guaranteed interviews for internships at Amazon.

Techworld spoke to Fatima Jouini, who received the bursary last year. She is currently in her second year studying electronic engineering at King's College London and is the first in her family to attend university.

Jouini's interest in a technology career was first sparked when a software engineer from Google came to visit her school when she was in sixth form.

"It's pretty obvious what a doctor or architect does, but not many of us knew what a software engineer does," says Jouini. "She explained she makes apps and helps maintain Google's search engine, and I was dying to know more.

"If it wasn't for her, I wouldn't have done my degree in electronic engineering, so I'm really thankful to her."

Jouini was fascinated by binary numbers when she was young and always had a keen interest in maths, making a career in tech a natural choice for her.

As part of her degree she has worked across a number of tech disciplines and programming languages, including Java, Python and SQL, plus business and management modules.

She received an email out of the blue when she started at King's College London asking if she'd like to apply for Amazon's bursary.

"It seemed a great offer – especially the chance to get a mentor, someone who can give you career insights and advise you along the way. My parents didn't go to university and I don't know anyone who has worked in tech," Jouini says.

She didn't expect to win the bursary but applied anyway at the last minute on deadline day. She was shocked when she was told her application had been successful.

Jouini says the money helps her pay her rent, for her laptop and for other items necessary for her studies. However she is most enthusiastic about the team at Amazon, who she says are "incredible".

"What I get out of the bursary scheme is the family I have at Amazon essentially. Everyone has been accessible – the heads of AWS, Amazon Prime, etc," she adds.

There is no obligation to go and work at Amazon but, perhaps unsurprisingly, Jouini says she would love a role there once she's graduated.

"What Amazon has done is believed in me, invested in me, given me resources, monetary help, and not tied me down in any way at all," she says. "It says a lot about their values."

When it comes to attracting more women from under-represented groups into technology, Jouini believes two things are crucial: early investment and access to information.

"Schools need to let students know there are so many options available in technology. Whatever you do, there will be a job out there for you if you do engineering," she says.

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