Aussie startup The Dream Collective has partnered up with Amazon Web Services to launch a new program, SheDares, and “demystify” careers in tech for women.
The new free online learning program is designed to help women apply their existing skill sets to pivot into technology careers.
It is underpinned by The Dream Collective’s research that highlights barriers to entry for women, including the perception of a steep learning curve, not knowing where to start, and a lack of visible role models.
SheDares is designed to counter the distinct under-representation of women in the tech sector, Lyndal Hamwood, senior product lead at The Dream Collective tells SmartCompany.
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There are two sets of barriers in place, she notes. First, there are systemic barriers, which are difficult to control in the short term.
Then, there are personal barriers. For example, if women can’t see people like themselves in leadership roles, and job requirements seem complex and unappealing, the tech industry can be intimidating.
The SheDares program is designed to help women overcome those personal barriers. It’s all about “demystifying the industry,” Hamwood says, “and encouraging more women to take steps into it”.
The program is made up of four self-paced modules focused on expanding perspectives, understanding transferable skills and sharing pathways for building skills and finding job opportunities.
Participants can also join fireside chats with women who have successfully transitioned into the tech sector.
After completing the course, participants can access three pathways offered by AWS, depending on whether they want to build on their skills, are ready to look for a new role or are looking to learn more about the sector first.
But getting more women into tech roles is only part of the battle.
While last week’s federal budget announced new programs designed to encourage more women’s participation in STEM, critics suggested it’s not the pipeline that’s the problem, it’s the toxic environment that remains in a male-dominated industry.
That’s something the Dream Collective team are all too mindful of. All the collaborators they have invited into the program have gone through a vetting process, Hamwood says.
“We need to make sure they are actually walking the walk, and they have a stance on not just diversity, equity and inclusion, but how they welcome women and support women in their organisation.”
An organic conversation
This isn’t the first time The Dream Collective and AWS have paired up to help women make a career transition.
Back in June 2020, the startup launched ShePivots, in partnership with not only AWS but with Canva, Google, Datacom and Inc.
At that time, the COVID-19 crisis was seeing women losing work at a disproportionate rate. The free program was intended to help women make “an unexpected career transition” into tech, The Dream Collective founder Sarah Liu said.
The tech giants were on board as ‘career partners’, who would welcome applications from program participants.
The SheDares program is a little more niche, Hamwood explains, and not so focused on women who have been displaced due to COVID-19.
But it was The Dream Collective’s work with AWS on ShePivots that laid the foundation for SheDares.
“It was a very organic conversation,” Hamwood says.
The success of ShePivots showed there was “complementary value”, she explains.
AWS brought insights and scale; The Dream Collective brought an engaged community of emerging women in leadership.
Liu got to talking with Adam Beavis, managing director of AWS in Australia and New Zealand, about what they could do next, Hamwood recalls.
“The scale of the problem was not being adequately met by the scale of the solution,” she notes.
“That’s where a conversation has turned into something much, much greater.”
Certainly she says AWS brings something to this particular program that it would be hard to replicate in any other partner.
It’s one of the biggest cloud providers in the world. It’s a big name, bringing clout to the campaign. And it has vast reach.
“Their ability to help us scale is going to help us take this program from good to exceptional,” Hamwood says.