Amazon’s mission is to be the earth’s most customer-centric company, and this mission is central to their work in inclusion, diversity, and equity. “We are committed to doing our part to ensure all technology is developed in a way that’s inclusive, diverse, and equitable in all aspects, including gender,” says Michelle Hardie, Head of Strategy, Operations, Enablement and Engagement. “Inclusive, diverse, and equitable teams have a positive impact on our products and services, and help us better serve customers.”
Amazon Web Services is part of the Amazon group of companies, ranging from household names like Audible, Amazon Prime and Amazon.com. To create a feeling of connectedness and inclusion, Amazon created Affinity Groups. “The thirteen Affinity Groups comprise over 90,000 Amazonians across hundreds of chapters around the world who passionately and positively impact our company, each with an executive sponsor that ensures these groups are engaging at every level of the company,” comments Michelle. Some examples of Amazon’s affinity groups include the Black Employee Network, Glamazon (Amazon’s LGBTQI+ Affinity Group), Indigenous @Amazon, Women at Amazon, Mental Health and Well-Being and Amazon People with Disabilities.
Through these groups, employees learn of different individuals’ journeys, their careers and how they arrived at where they are today. This is done through events including “a day in the life of,” panel discussions and social networking. These events provide a combination of inspiration and practical how-to knowledge which individuals can then explore with their mentors. The outcome is a supported and engaged workforce as there is so much opportunity and scope for growth.
The Affinity Groups are also voices advocating for change. One of their notable achievements has been to have breast feeding rooms installed in offices. Another was to change the office space in the wake of COVID to include both a library space where a team can work in quiet and a casual breakout space where teams can brainstorm.
For individuals keen to drive change and make a difference, there is the AWS Inclusion Ambassadors Program which was developed to quickly and broadly amplify the inclusion and diversity work being done at AWS. The Inclusion Ambassadors Program helps employees connect with others who share their interest in becoming allies, advocates, and agents of change. “Ambassadors drive communications for culture-enhancing events such as inclusion forums, accessibility labs, and town hall conversations happening within our organisation,” says Michelle.
Another internal initiative designed to support the development of senior and diverse leaders is the ‘Sponsor for Success’ program which provides employees with a sponsor from another country designed to encourage and create opportunities for the individual to progress.
Not all the work on diversity and inclusion is focused internally. The team at AWS are passionate about creating the future pipeline of young women into the technology industry. They have formed community collaborations with Code Like a Girl and the Tech Girls Movement Foundation, as well as creating community events like the AWS Girls In Tech Day, where schoolgirls are inspired and can explore technology and potential career pathways. One AWS team member, a new graduate, could not believe her luck in being able to spend a day sharing her knowledge and enthusiasm with Year 8 & 9 school students. The opportunity to “open their eyes” to the possibilities was very rewarding.
At a recent Girls in Tech community event, Michelle Hardie shared her experience of a young girl with an insatiable curiosity that kept coming back to her every half hour or so with new questions. “How had she got into an IT career?” “What subjects had she studied at school?” “How had she gone from programming to sales?” It was initially playing with the robot dog that had inspired the student’s interest and by the end of the day she was hooked. Michelle left feeling proud of AWS’s involvement and impact.
With all these initiatives it is no wonder AWS were finalists for the Gender Equity Awards, Recalibrate. It is this unique combination of employee and community engagement, externally and internally, that is both genuine and meaningful, helping to create a huge amount of trust for employees knowing they are individually valued and have a voice where they work.
Photo names: [L to R] Saliya Katungu-Moran, Michelle Hardie, Sumal Karunanayake, Judy Cole, Jamie Simon, Sharon Rode, Nick Blamey, Mary Law, Pela Markogiannakis, Andy Hindmarch and Georgia Mitchell
If you would like to learn more about the other finalists then click this link.