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This month celebrates Pride 2018, organisations should be celebrating their LGBTQ+ employees all year round, however the month of June shines that multicoloured spotlight on diversity and inclusion throughout companies on a global scale. The sad reality is that over 25% of gay, lesbian or bisexual employees in the UK do not feel confident enough to openly be who they are in the workplace. In addition to this, according to Stonewall, 42% of trans people are not living entirely as their preferred gender because they feel it could directly impact or threaten their job - it's 2018, this is not acceptable.
Amazon’s LGBTQ+ network is called ‘Glamazon’, we spoke with Luca Sale the co-chair of Glamazon UK about the importance of ensuring that the LGBTQ+ community at Amazon feel safe, visible and are fully supported throughout their career.
Luca, can you tell us more about ‘Glamazon’ at Amazon
Glamazon is Amazon’s diversity & inclusion network for LGBT employees and their allies. It aims to raise awareness for employees about LGBTQ issues and promote opportunities for engagement both inside and outside the company through mentorship and social gatherings. We want to ensure that everyone at Amazon feels welcome and comfortable to be who they are from day one. We offer them opportunities to network and interact with like-minded individuals, as well as professional opportunities to enter mentoring programmes and leadership training.
When was Glamazon formed?
We established the UK chapter of glamazon in 2015 but we have many other chapters around the world in places like India, Japan, Italy, Spain, Germany and the US to name a few. Our cousins in Seattle have been around for longer than us, and we keep inspiring each other to make the groups around the world more inclusive and engaging.
How highly is diversity and inclusion (D&I) valued at Amazon?
Globally, Amazon understands the value in encouraging diversity. We’re a company of builders whose diverse backgrounds, ideas, and points of view are critical to helping us invent on behalf of all our customers. But it’s not only that diversity and inclusion are good for our business. It’s more fundamental than that – we believe it’s simply right.
In fact since 2016, enrollment in our affinity groups has more than doubled in more than 90 chapters worldwide. Our employee affinity groups build community and provide opportunities for leadership development for Amazonians. They provide critical insights throughout the company and support policy changes to improve diversity in the business.
Affinity Groups also encourage employees from all backgrounds to work and stay at Amazon. For example, this year for Pride month, we have been encouraged executives at Amazon to be visible and proud with a series of initiatives running from 1 June to 6 July, culminating with us marching in the Pride in London parade. This month we’re also taking over the corporate spaces with rainbow colours, hosting health and fitness classes, bake-offs, a diversity fashion show and even social events with musical artists.
Employee benefits also seek to help ensure Amazon is a diverse place to work. For example, benefits cover transgender services, including support for employees going through gender reassignment and associated mental health services for employees and their dependents, when enrolled.
What would you say to companies who aren’t prioritising D&I within their people strategy?
Diversity, inclusion, and equality go hand-in-hand in hiring the right candidate, retaining incredible talent and driving innovation. Diversity of your people fosters greater diversity of thought. So if your decision-making team are a group of individuals who look and sound the same, are part of the same generation, come from the same place, have the same beliefs and so on – there’s a risk that they will only be able to understand a small portion of their customer base. Diverse people around the decision table who are given the same opportunity to contribute are more likely to best empathise with all customers.
What changes would you like to see in relation to how companies treat their LGBTQ+ community?
I feel very privileged to live and work in a cosmopolitan city like London where diversity and inclusion is encouraged and sought after, but I understand not everyone is as lucky as us. Companies who hire, retain and consult LGBTQ+ talent are the ones at the forefront of innovation and are obsessed with all their customers. Companies who don’t, have a very small window to wake up and realise the opportunity they are slowly letting go, before employees leave for a better workplace.
Besides Amazon, can you cite any other companies who role model D&I strategies?
Most tech and retail firms are heavily invested in D&I activities as they recognise the true value in embracing diversity. In the last few years I have started to see more conservative institutions changing their old way of thinking and updating their systems to welcome customers who might have not been catered for in the past. Credit Suisse for example, is leading the space in recognising gender fluid or gender non-confirming employees and customers.
What are the biggest challenges LGBTQ+ employees face?
Perhaps the biggest challenge facing the LGBTQ+ community – whether they are working in a rural area or a big city – is simply the challenge of being able to be themselves. Employers should strive to create an environment where all employees can feel comfortable and not feel they have to hide who they are – this is a waste of energy that could be better spent in other ways. Of course, people shouldn’t feel pressurised to reveal all aspects of their private life in the workplace, but no one should be made to feel that if they did it could hurt their careers or they would be ostracised in some way. That’s why I love working at Amazon where there’s a genuine effort to help shine a spotlight on the success of our diverse teams to help