How Amazon Web Services recruits and supports women to improve their growth, HR News, ETHRWorld


Sandra Teh, Cultural Director – APJC, Amazon Web Service

Recently, Microsoft found itself embroiled in a controversy over the acquisition of video game giant Activision Blizzard even after it was sued in a California court in July 2021, alleging a “pervasive ‘frat boy’ culture” in business and discrimination against women in compensation and pay. promotion. In addition, there were reports of sexual misconduct and harassment within the company, which ultimately led to the dismissal of 40 employees.

Another report of sexual harassment and workplace misconduct in the tech industry has come to light from Ashley Kosak, the former engineer at rocket company Musk SpaceX. Kosak published an essay alleging workplace harassment and how the company turned a blind eye to it.

Such incidents point to the prevalence of gender discrimination and gender-biased workplace practices in the tech industry. According to a study conducted by Built In, 48% of women in STEM jobs report discrimination in the recruitment and hiring process, 39% of women identify gender bias as the main reason for not being offered a job. promotion and 66% of women say there is no clear career path for them in their current companies.

Amid such draconian conditions for women in the tech industry, Amazon Web Services is focusing on developing talent by creating an inclusive work environment and improving the representation of women in leadership positions.

ETHRWorld interacted with Sandra Teh, Director of Culture – APJC (Asia-Pacific, Japan and China), Amazon Web Services, on how initiatives can be developed to close the gender gap and how hiring more women brings more growth to the company.

Speaking on how initiatives can be implemented to improve the female workforce, Teh said, “Initiatives should be implemented across different business functions, from management to human resources. (HR). At the top, business leaders can initiate mentorship programs and get directly involved in helping women prepare for the board. »

Additionally, according to Teh, HR can also play in rolling out initiatives to mitigate gender discrimination and establish an inclusive workforce.

“At the HR level, we can provide opportunities for a diverse and inclusive workforce by involving women in interview processes, preparing gender-neutral job descriptions, adopting blind selection of resume and organizing inclusive hiring and training among employees,” she said.

Initiatives for the inclusion of women in technology

Women are a minority in the tech industry, accounting for less than 20% of jobs worldwide, according to a report by Next Generation, a specialist recruitment agency. To improve the position of women in the tech industry, strong mentorship and community programs can help.

On that note, Teh said, “Our mentorship programs include structured, company-approved programs, as well as unstructured programs conducted voluntarily by our passionate builders who include external customers, partners and communities. We also focus on creating an inclusive environment.

Another part of the mentorship program shared by her was to encourage employees to make commitments to improve diversity.

Citing the example of a commitment made by Puneet Chandok, President – India and South Asia, Amazon Web Services, Teh said, “Puneet Chandok’s personal commitment was to recruit at least three female leaders to its leadership team. , mentor eight to ten women, be more aware of the challenges women face and actively support their choices.

Additionally, she has also focused on raising awareness and engaging in community events to break gender stereotypes and introduce women to a new set of opportunities available in the tech industry to improve the gender ratio. .

Speaking about an event held at Amazon Web Services to break stereotypes, Teh said, “We celebrated several calendar events like Girl’s Tech Day and International Women’s Day across Asia which helped foster the community learning and dispel the stereotype of STEM-related fields. ”

As technology continually evolves and creates new opportunities in the tech industry, Teh mentioned community events for women that can educate them about new technologies through collaborative learning.

Explaining more about the community events, Teh added, “Through these community events, we hope to drive the early adoption of artificial intelligence and machine learning technology by bringing together female students in the regions to learn collaboratively and get acquainted with machine learning through a cloud-based virtual racing simulator.

In the workplace, even after being hired, factors like subtle sexism leave women’s work undervalued, creating resistance in the minds of future employers.

Speaking about appreciating women’s achievements and dispelling doubts about women’s careers in the tech industry, Teh mentioned an initiative, called “She Builds”, which focuses on women’s achievements in customer success and partners.

Teh said: “The initiative – She Builds – was created to provide a platform for aspiring women in technology to speak with female leaders and help women deal with uncertainties or misconceptions about industry.”

“The initiative aims to highlight women’s achievements in customer and partner success, industry insights from a women’s perspective and, most importantly, role models to aspire to, which translates by a great satisfaction and a great participation on the part of our participants”, she added.

Factors to keep in mind when rolling out the women’s initiative

To develop an inclusive workforce, it is essential to understand the challenges that prevent women from entering the labor market. Businesses need to consider these factors and develop initiatives accordingly to address the challenges.

According to a poll by The Guardian, 73% of tech industry workers think the industry is sexist. Highlighting some of the similar challenges like sexism, Teh said, “Women face structural and cultural challenges, a perceived steep learning curve, a lack of visible female role models, and difficulties in finding a starting point in terms of exploration of technological careers.

Understanding and addressing these challenges is an important step in planning initiatives. Teh said, “When planning initiatives to engage women, my first step is to identify the pain points that women face on a specific issue. By knowing these pain points and challenges, we can then seek to understand how we can help women better address them. »

Many women do not feel supported in the workplace, which eventually causes them to leave the workforce. Suggesting steps to overcome barriers faced by women, Teh said, “Our platform needs to be engaging, inclusive and accessible to women. We want them to feel welcome and empowered to break stereotypes that the tech industry is a tough environment for them.

The impact of hiring women

A McKinsey & Company report pointed out that greater participation of women in leadership positions and increasing gender diversity in the leadership team translates to proportionally higher company performance.

Another Harvard Business School study found that companies that increased their proportion of female partner hires by 10%, saw an average 1.5% increase in overall fund performance each year and also 9.7% more profitable exits.

Describing her experience hiring and working with women in leadership positions, Teh said, “I am thrilled to work with amazing women who are builders and innovators who grow our business and deliver exciting client results. on different fronts.”

Highlighting the example of a female leader Mani Thiru, head of aerospace and satellite solutions who is responsible for boosting the region’s economic development by unlocking the next generation of space innovation, Teh said, “Mani is overcoming stereotypes every day. . She works with a global team of interdisciplinary experts to reinvent space system architectures, transform space businesses, and launch new services that process space data on Earth and in orbit.

“His efforts have yielded results ranging from space farming and emergency and disaster management to impact education and Earth observation research,” she added.

Hiring women in the workplace creates a safe and welcoming environment for future female employers. Likewise, Teh added that Thiru influenced other women to enter the field.

She said: “By actively sharing her stories, Mani has brought together the women of the APJ space community, to organize meaningful programs for young people and girls as well as webinars for the industry. She is a role model and brings change and impact for other women in tech. »

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