AWS Hires Investigators After Gender Discrimination Petition

Amazon Web Services (AWS) is at the centre of internal staff tensions, after a petition was circulated last week containing serious allegations.

CNN saw the staff petition, which alleges “systemic discrimination, harassment, bullying and bias against women and under-represented groups.”

It comes after a black female executive at Amazon Web Services filed a discrimination lawsuit against it in March this year.

AWS allegations

Charlotte Newman, a business development head at AWS alleged that Amazon hires black people for lower positions and promotes them more slowly than white workers.

Newman also alleged she was subjected to harassment.

Her complaint alleged that Amazon suffers from a “systemic pattern of insurmountable discrimination,” despite its pledge to fight racism and statements of solidarity from CEO Jeff Bezos.

Newman is reportedly a Harvard Business School graduate and former adviser to Democrat US Senator Cory Booker.

According to CNN, last week’s staff petition specifically addresses concerns among staffers within an Amazon Web Services (AWS) unit known as ProServe, which assists enterprise customers with adopting its cloud computing products.

CNN reported that the petition alleges that “many staffers have expressed concerns that the internal processes relied upon to investigate and defend AWS’s handling of these matters are not fair, objective or transparent.”

The petition claims that “the system is set up to protect the company and the status quo, rather than the employees filing the complaints.”

The Washington Post reported the petition was signed by more than 550 employees.

Outside investigators

According to CNN, Amazon responded to the petition’s authors on 16 July, in an email from AWS CEO Adam Selipsky.

Selipsky reportedly said he shares the “passion for ensuring that our workplace is inclusive and free of bias and unfair treatment.”

He also reportedly confirmed that the company has “retained an outside firm to investigate and understand any inappropriate conduct that you or others may have experienced or witnessed.”

“This firm is experienced and objective, and I personally will review their independent findings, which will help guide any further actions,” Selipsky reportedly said, in an email sent on behalf of himself and Amazon’s newly appointed CEO Andy Jassy, the 24-year Amazon veteran who previously helped build and lead AWS.

Amazon said the outside firm it hired is a women-owned-and-led investigative firm but declined to share the firm’s name.

It also said it is taking other steps internally, including having team leaders work on a broad assessment of the ProServe culture.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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