Diversity as a resource: proudly introducing Glamazon, the Amazon affinity group dedicated to LGBTQ+ employees and allies. Together, they help make Amazon a more open and inclusive workplace every day.
on 22 June 2018
It’s welcoming, fun and very glam: glamazon, the affinity group dedicated to LGBTQ+ employees and allies, is one of the most active communities within the Amazon universe. With 40 chapters across the world, it aims at creating awareness about LGBTQ+ issues and opportunities, fostering a diverse workplace and leadership and influencing policy changes to make Amazon a place where different perspectives are embraced and celebrated. For Pride month, five members of the UK chapter share their views on diversity and inclusion.
Troy“An inclusive working environment welcomes and celebrates everyone for who they are and what they bring to the table, enhancing the abilities of the combined team.”“I am a Senior Manager in Amazon’s EU Accounting team, which is responsible for all financial reporting and compliance in the UK. I was born and raised in Zimbabwe, where being gay is still against the law. A big part of the reason for moving to the UK was to be in an environment where it was not illegal to just be me. I saw how those brave enough to be open about this part of their life were being treated and it was frightening that something which I could not change would have such a bearing on the way I was considered by society, not to mention in the eyes of the law. I therefore kept this part of my life private until I immigrated to the UK. Many people are not as fortunate to be able to simply move away to a more accepting country, and often have to face persecution on a daily basis. It is clear that the work of affinity groups, like glamazon, is still very relevant today.
Affinity groups are commonly defined as groups of people linked by a common purpose, but I think there’s much more to them – they act as important support groups for their members and help generate awareness of the challenges faced by them. They have actively contributed to creating an inclusive working environment, one that welcomes and celebrates each team member for who they are and what they bring to the table. In my view, the most significant annual event in the glamazon calendar is Pride. This is an event held as a positive stance to promote equal rights, build community and celebrate diversity and gender variances. Each one is special and reminds me of how far we have come.”
Maureen“A place where you don’t have to worry about how you will be perceived when you talk about what you did over the weekend. A place where you don’t have to think about gender when you describe your partner. That’s an inclusive working environment.”“As an Area Manager in Tilbury’s Fulfilment Centre, my main goal lies around customer promise and keeping my team’s engagement high. It is intense, and it means I have to wear many different hats, but the feeling when we hit each of our goals is worth the effort to get there!
I am part of the glamazon committee, and as such I often brainstorm ideas for activities and initiatives with colleagues. We have monthly socials, and a number of activities through June to commemorate Pride Month, ranging from cake sales to fitness events and networking evenings. My favourite event, of course, is Pride, because of its history as a protest which led to many positive changes in society and companies for LGBT+ individuals. Being an active glamazon member gives me a sense of fulfilment – I feel that I am part of something that will change things for the better. And I can experience first-hand the positive impact that affinity groups have on employees. I’m proud of working for an employer that actively listens to me and creates opportunities to make my working life better.”
Stiven“Knowing I’m not alone in the workplace and that there are supportive people around is both a small and a massive thing at the same time.”“A little about me, I'm a User Experience Designer on the Prime Video team. My job is to identify and solve problems to make the Prime Video experience worldwide as delightful as possible. Amazon for me is endlessly ambitious on behalf of our customers, always striving to do what is right for them. From my perspective, if anyone is going to get things right for LGBTQ+ people it will be Amazon, because we constantly raise the bar and never settle.
To me, an inclusive working environment is a space where you can be your true and full self. A place where a diversity of perspectives is not only welcome but also essential. I originally joined glamazon because of its social activities: it seemed like a good opportunity to meet new people with some common ground, without any expectations. Glamazon does a lot: Pride and other large events, mentoring schemes, fundraising for charities and, my favourite, happy hours at the pub. My one wish for the future? I always come back to a lyric by Perfume Genius in the song All Waters: “When I can take your hand / On any crowded street / And hold you close to me / With no hesitating.” It’s too easy to assume everything is ‘ok’ based upon your own experiences, and I think many people don’t realise that a small gesture like that would mean the world to people like me.”
Nancy“Being part of an affinity group changes your perspective on things: the more you get involved, the more you start seeing yourself in a different way. You change for the better, wanting to help more and more.”“As a person with a disability, I know perfectly well how important it is to find acceptance in the workplace. I had negative experiences in the past but, thankfully, the environment at Amazon enables you to be who you are – and who you want to be. It’s all about learning to work with differences, and creating a safe place for everyone to be successful. I know quite a bit about safety: my team, Information Security, handles all of Amazon’s data security infrastructure and policies, making sure that customer data is absolutely protected.
I think affinity groups are great to talk to people who are facing the same challenges as you in their daily life. I joined glamazon to be able to support my ‘bonus son’, who is 16. He is gay and loves participating in drag queen shows! After coming out, he came to me asking for all sorts of advice – where could he go out and meet people safely in London? Where could he find clothing for his shows? I turned to glamazon for help, and the community was wonderful in offering advice. They even involved him in their Drag Fashion Show! That is what affinity groups do: support people who need it, no matter who they are. I grew up in a strictly evangelist family in the US, and next year I am going to introduce my stepson to my parents: it will be an opportunity for them to expand their horizons, and I know glamazon is going to be there to support me at a delicate time.”
Fabien“You have inclusion when you encounter no judgement, but only full acceptance from your peers.”“I come from a remote, rainy town in Brittany, but I have lived in Paris, Dublin, Singapore, the Netherlands... I’ve been an Amazonian for almost six years now, working for the Claims department: when there is a problem with a marketplace order and a customer files a claim, it’s my team’s duty to investigate and help customers. When you manage to please a customer and they say ‘thank you’, it really makes your day!
I met my partner in Paris 15 years ago, and since day one, we knew that we would eventually have a family. 19 months ago, our dream came true: we had a daughter by surrogacy, our little Alix. When I told my manager that I was going to become a parent, I only found support and genuine interest. My situation was not contemplated in any of the existing paternity policies, as my partner and I didn’t tick any of the boxes. Yet, the company decided I should be entitled to the same benefits as any other father-to-be: I got my paternity leave, and Amazon fully matched my salary, even the part that would normally be covered for by the state. Honestly, it was awesome. I found nothing but acceptance. Glamazon fully embodies that spirit: the group is open to anyone and everyone, without any judgement. The point is to come together, share knowledge and emotional support and help change practices for the better. It can be very powerful – you really feel that the company is behind you. It’s also a great way to make friends: many members are still part of our community even after moving away from the UK.”
Mansoor“An inclusive working environment is one where everybody can feel comfortable with who they are, regardless of their background, situation, religion, sexuality or gender.”“I work as an area manager for Operations, Prime Now. If you have ever ordered anything with Prime Now in the London area, you can safely assume your order has been fulfilled by someone in my team! It’s a very diverse group: we have 35 different flags in our building, one for each nationality represented here. We have a real, direct connection with customers, and this constantly motivates us to do better and faster. Our record was fulfilling an order in 6 minutes 59 seconds! I love that at Amazon, we’re not afraid of taking risks and failing: we regard problems as opportunities to learn and do better. It’s a very open culture.
I became a glamazon member shortly after joining the company. I was new to London, didn’t have a big social network and wanted to meet new people. Glamazon offered me a mix of social events, talks and professional networking opportunities. Some of the events they organised with speakers from the BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) and LGBTQ+ communities were really inspiring for me. But the best initiative was last year’s Pride – it was fantastic, so much energy and joy in the air! I think it would be amazing if everybody joins one or more of our affinity groups. Even if you don’t perceive yourself as being part of one of those communities, opening yourself to these groups will help you broaden your horizons and ultimately become a better individual, personally and professionally. And if you still haven’t found a group that speaks to you, all you have to do is create a new one yourself!”