Amazon is a leading online retailer known for getting items to buyers in a heartbeat with the click of a mouse. However, for many, that convenience can’t forgive accusations of discriminatory practices. The retial giant’s response: focus more on inclusion.
Recode by Vox illuminates the backdrop of a mounting issue, sharing the story of a Black woman named Chanin Kelly-Rae, who started working at Amazon in 2019 as a global manager of diversity in its cloud computing division. Kelly-Rae was convinced that Amazon’s corporate workplace had deep, systemic issues. According to Recode by Vox, the company disadvantages Black employees and workers from other underrepresented backgrounds. Kelly-Rae said Amazon leadership was unwilling to listen to internal experts regarding how to identify and fix the described problems.
“Amazon was not doing things in a way that represents best practices that would advance diversity and inclusion in any way that is meaningful and thoughtful,” she told Recode by Vox. “Let me add: Amazon appeared to be taking steps backward instead of forward.”
In addition to Kelly-Rae, more than a dozen former and current Amazon corporate employees chimed in, including more Black respondents. Both current and former employees, other than Kelly-Rae, spoke on condition of anonymity, fearing retribution or being bound by employment terms. They felt the company did not create a corporate-wide environment where all Black employees felt welcomed and respected.
And in a recent Forbes.com article, “according to Amazon data, Black employees accounted for 3.8% of its senior positions in the U.S. (up from 1.5% in 2018), compared with a figure of 70.7% for whites (down from 74.3% in 2018).”
Forbes.com also reported that a Black woman from Washington, D.C., named Charlotte Newman filed a federal lawsuit against Amazon in early March. Allegations included intentional underpayment to her and other Black employees compared to their White counterparts. Newman also accused the company of placing newly hired Black employees in positions which were beneath their level of expertise and experience.
Beth Galetti, Amazon’s senior vice president of people eXperience and technology, posted a lengthy message regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion on Amazon’s website on April 14. Galetti mentioned that inequitable treatment of Black people is unacceptable, that rights of other groups must be protected, and how Amazon is committed to building an inclusive company.
“Building on last year’s work, we are setting our 2021 company-wide goals for diversity, equity, and inclusion. We are continuing goals to increase representation of Black employees in the U.S., as this is where we have the furthest to go. However, nearly all of the new goals affect all communities specifically by addressing situations in which employees from a diverse set of backgrounds have different experiences than peers in areas like development, retention, and talent assessment,” Galetti wrote.
Action plans included ensuring that all Amazon employees take company-wide required inclusion training; building scalable mechanisms that address new instances of non-inclusive terms in its code and document repositories or development tools; doubling the number of U.S. Black employees at L8-L10 (directors and vice presidents) year-over-year from 2020 numbers; increasing hiring of U.S. Black employees at L4-L7 by at least 30% year-over-year from 2020 hiring; and increasing the number of women at L8-L10 (senior principals, directors, vice presidents, and “distinguished engineers”) in tech and science roles by 30% year-over-year.