The materials, including best practice guidance on issues such as the correct use of names and pronouns and restroom accessibility, were created with Amazon employees from across the company with the aim of supporting transgender staff and their allies.
Launching the guidelines at the OUTstanding Summer Reception (21st June 2018), Simon Johnson, Director of Media at Amazon, said: “As well as the transgender guidelines we are launching today, Amazon also provide benefits that cover transgender services, including support for employees going through gender reassignment and associated mental health services for employees and their dependents, when enrolled.
“That’s because we have hundreds of millions of customers who benefit from diversity of thought and strongly believe a variety of backgrounds, ideas, and points of view is the best way to invent on behalf of our customers.
“Diversity and inclusion is good for our business and our customers, and transgender employees are an important part of our team. We hope with the new guidelines and support, every employee feels even more safe, valued and able to succeed based on the skills and contribution they bring to the business.”
In January this year, LGBT+ rights charity Stonewall published research stating that half of transgender employees have been so afraid of discrimination at work they have hidden the fact that they are LGBT+ in the workplace. As a consequence of harassment and bullying, a quarter of trans people say they feel obliged to change their jobs, whilst 42 per cent are not living permanently in their preferred gender role because they fear it could threaten their employment status. Stonewall also assert that “people perform better when they can be themselves”, with their research demonstrating employees are up to 32 per cent more productive when they feel comfortable being ‘out’ at work.
One employee currently benefiting from Amazon’s new guidelines is Michael, who is currently undertaking male to female transition. He manages a team of software engineers as a Software Development Manager at Amazon’s Development Centre in Scotland and chairs the Edinburgh chapter of glamazon, the company’s LGBT+ employee affinity group.
“The Transgender Toolkit was invaluable to myself, my team and my wider colleagues when I announced my transition,” said Michael. “It provides comprehensive resources to answer some of the more common questions around names, pronouns and policies without my colleagues needing to worry about whether or not they were allowed to ask particular questions. This outward flow of information made it easy for them to understand the changes and how they would affect them without doubt and ambiguity, at their own pace. My transition is still a work in progress but I’m happy to say that I couldn’t have found a more supportive environment than I have at Amazon. I’ve also had incredible support from HR and our affinity groups glamazon and Amazon Women in Engineering, which have worked tirelessly to ensure I feel included during every step of this journey.”
Amazon’s Transgender Guidelines and Toolkit includes comprehensive workplace transition resources, including an HR/transgender employee meeting sample agenda, a sample workplace transition communication plan, and an example email template, in order to make the process as straightforward as possible. The resources have been made available internally to all Amazon employees in the UK, including helpful tips, guides, and links for transgender and gender non-conforming employees.
Amazon’s employee affinity group – glamazon – played a key role in developing the guidelines and toolkit. Launched in 1999, glamazon helps make Amazon a great place to work by educating and informing employees about LGBTQ+ issues and opportunities. The group mentors fellow employees (both LGBTQ+ and allies) and promotes diversity and visibility in recruiting and throughout Amazon. The group makes Amazon more visible within the LGBTQ+ community-at-large by sponsoring events and PRIDE parades around the globe.
“Being whole and authentic at work allows everyone to focus on bringing great value to our customers as well as retaining the great talent we hire,” added Luca Sale, chair of glamazon UK. “Becoming your real self should be a bureaucracy-free journey and Amazon is facilitating it by providing easy-to-follow guidelines as well as health benefits that include gender reassignment surgery. Our transgender employees, their peers and their managers have now the ability to consult the Toolkit before, during and after the transitioning process removing any uncertainty about what to do or say.”
“Living in an equal society means freedom from discrimination for all”, added Suki Sandhu, Founder & CEO, OUTstanding. “It’s fantastic to see an influential, global company like Amazon promoting gender awareness initiatives. By demonstrating such visible support, they are helping to drive change in business and showcasing the importance of diverse and inclusive workplaces. We are always proud to see our member firms leading the way in the promotion of LGBT+ inclusion.”