Shalini is a Human Resource professional with diverse industry and international experience. Her stint in a business role managing large operations teams within Amazon for over 11 years piqued her interest in the value of diversity. By taking up the role of a Diversity leader she’s made it her cause to further a culture of inclusion through creating an ecosystem in which talent flourishes irrespective of gender, race, age, national origin, sexual orientation, culture, education, as well as professional and life experience. Shalini is one part Amazonian, one part mother to a three year old Spiderman, one part shopaholic and one part passionate runner. Excerpts from the conversation:
On the meaning of diversity
For me, Diversity and Inclusion go hand in hand. I have heard Jeff Bezos say “Diversity & Inclusion is not only good for our business - It’s more fundamental than that - it’s simply right.” Diversity for me is the combination of unique skills, experiences, perspectives, and cultural backgrounds that make us who we are and Inclusion is being valued, trusted, connected and informed so that each one adds value their own unique way. I truly believe in “Are right a lot” one of our leadership principles that asks leaders to actively seek diverse perspectives
When I came back from my maternity leave, for the first time I experienced feeling this sense of self-imposed guilt when I left work at 5:00 PM to pick up my son from day care.
On what inspired her to take up the cause
At various stages of my career I did feel that there was a lack of women role models but didn’t pay too much attention to it. When I came back from my maternity leave, for the first time I experienced feeling this sense of self-imposed guilt when I left work at 5:00 PM to pick up my son from day care. It was then that I felt strongly about many other women and people with special needs who were probably facing a tougher challenge than I was. I decided to do something about it and this is what drew me to shift gears from business to HR.
I do believe that inclusion is not one person’s job, it requires all of us to equally partake in making our organization more inclusive.
On Amazon’s commitment to diversity
We encourage everyone to bring their voice and celebrate their uniqueness at Amazon. To enable this, we have multiple programs and policies launched under the Diversity umbrella in the recent past:
- Amazon Campus Mentoring Series: ACMS is an initiative conceptualized to increase awareness and preparedness of talent pool comprising of women in engineering campuses. According to the International Labor Organization India still ranks in the bottom 20 of a list of 131 countries in female labor force participation. This is our way to groom talent and help them be better prepared for a corporate career, irrespective of if they end up with Amazon or not.
- Rekindle: Rekindle is an initiative to provide a launch pad to women who have taken a break in their careers due to any circumstances. Through this initiative, Amazon India aims to provide opportunities and support women to professionally re-integrate themselves and resume their corporate career. Structured on-boarding, focused mentoring, flexible work options and on the job learning are key elements to help potential candidates in ramping up.
- Affinities groups for various diverse groups: We continue to nurture diversity through creating a sense of community among employees of various backgrounds in order to foster engagement and innovation. Notable examples are Women@Amazon, Warriors@Amazon, Glamazon (LGBTQ).
- Training on unconscious bias: We believe that becoming aware of biases can lead to changing behavior, which ultimately can make Amazon more collaborative, inclusive and diverse.
- Creating an inclusive environment: We have multiple initiatives to increase awareness on the importance of inclusion – for example, posters in the meeting room on how to conduct an inclusive meeting, internal video contest on how teams are creating an inclusive environment, quiz, leadership training on 'How Inclusion Matters at Amazon.' Our maternity, paternity and flexible work option policies make sure that we create an enabling environment for all.
On a culture of inclusion
We want to bring the brightest mind from all backgrounds, feeling informed, trusted, valued and connected to Amazon where they contribute their best without anything to distract them from being themselves. Last quarter for example, we launched a 21 day Inclusion Program primarily to increase awareness through powerful stories, talks, tips and videos on building an inclusive culture. Many of the stories / articles gave perspective on how men & women see the workplace differently or on dangers of a single story or pointers on running fair meetings. I do believe that inclusion is not one person’s job, it requires all of us to equally partake in making our organization more inclusive.