Innovation comes from diversity – At Amazon, each individual’s uniqueness

Mariangela Marseglia

Actively promoting inclusion and diversity is what characterises companies that consciously live in the present. Personally, I believe in a simple equation: the more open and inclusive workplaces are, the more comfortable people feel and the better they express their full potential; the more a person can fully share their uniqueness, the more easily their workspace attracts even more talented people; the more talented people you welcome, the more innovative you can be, and the more customers will trust you. 

For Amazon, inclusion and diversity are core values because, to quote Jeff Bezos, “They’re simply right.” On top of being right, I would add that they are a right for everyone. For this to happen, the proper conditions must be created. Amazon is a company of innovators with different backgrounds, ideas and points of view. From our unique point of view, we put ourselves in the customer’s shoes every day with the goal of inventing new products and services that can make their lives easier and better. The diversity of our perspectives is the result of differences in gender, race, age, origin, sexual orientation, culture, education and the professional and life experiences that characterise us. Each of us should feel comfortable sharing our personal point of view and being interested in the perspectives of others, and this is emphasised in our 14 Principles of Leadership, which remind us of the importance of seeking diverse opinions, learning and being curious, and constantly earning the trust of others. A diverse and inclusive culture can be developed in many ways, from proper company policies to initiatives promoted for and by our employees. For example, at Amazon all couples – married, living together and de facto – can take up to 6 weeks of paid parental leave for biological and adopted children. In addition, after parental leave mothers and fathers can participate in an 8-week part-time re-entry programme. I was able to benefit first-hand from this parental leave when my wife made me a mother in 2018.

Inclusion also passes through what we call “Affinity Groups”, 12 groups created and led by Amazon employees (over 50,000 employees in over 190 committees globally), in which we discuss and develop initiatives on different issues of common interest, from sexual orientation to race, disabilities and gender. In Italy, we have Women@, which aims to provide resources to create and develop women’s networks, attract new female talent, pursue a policy of inclusion and equality and promote women’s involvement in STEM disciplines; Women in Finance is particularly committed to creating networks of women who are experts in finance and developing their careers; and Glamazon, which contributes to making Amazon the “best place to work” by educating and informing employees about LGBTQI+ issues. Created in 2016 and open to all employees beyond sexual orientation, Glamazon is a space for discussion and developing initiatives on LGBTQI+ topics: from fundraising to the organisation of events to raise awareness of homophobia, to the daily focus on correct and non-discriminatory language among colleagues. The Glamazon team is always open to anyone in the company who is looking for support on diversity issues, needs advice on how to handle a sensitive situation or simply wants to learn more about specific topics. You may wonder why it’s called Glamazon. It’s a name that’s dear to me, which also refers to the concept of glamour, to emphasise that what is different is beautiful. The central idea is to promote awareness and dialogue to make Amazon an increasingly inclusive environment. Among the many initiatives we have promoted over the years there are meetings, debates and conferences to discuss common experiences and share knowledge.

Mariangela Marseglia

In 2019, we had the pleasure of hosting a panel with Senator Monica Cirinnà to deal with civil unions, to collaborate with the association AGEDO (Association of Parents of Homosexuals) on “Coming Out Day”, and, again, to consider LGBTQI+ issues in depth with the GroupSchool of ArciGay. These were all unique opportunities to stimulate a constructive debate and remind us that each of us, in our daily lives, can and must make a difference. Glamazon also promotes opportunities to socialise, movie forums and, of course, the annual participation in Pride Week, which in 2020, despite the pandemic, was still celebrated with numerous initiatives: from the custom shopper distributed to Prime Now customers to the playlist available on Amazon Music, to the support of Milan Pride 2020, through which we supported Rainbow Housing and the Mutual Aid Fund for Coronavirus Milan. Our commitment to these issues has allowed us to break down many barriers and achieve many goals, including some external recognition of which we are proud: we have been included in the NAACP’s Equity, Inclusion and Empowerment Index and in the Disability Equality Index

However, as a woman, a mother and a professional, I believe there is still a long way to go. As far as we are concerned, I can guarantee that Amazon will continue its efforts to raise awareness and support associations and all the various actors responsible for the training and education of younger generations, reaffirming our total openness to collaborating with anyone who cares about these topics.

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