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Leading with inclusion: How AWS is driving diversity in the media tech industry

Continuing TVBEurope's look at drivers of change in the media tech industry, Samira Bakhtiar, director of global media and entertainment, Amazon Web Services (AWS), explains how the company aims to advance inclusion, belonging, diversity and equity

The innovations created at Amazon Web Services (AWS) wouldn’t be possible without diverse teams to help us think bigger, and differently, about the products and services that we build for our customers from all over the globe. To drive diversity and equity, we must create an environment where employees feel a strong sense of inclusion and belonging. That’s why we lead with inclusion at AWS.

AWS has a number of strategic initiatives to foster a culture of inclusion and belonging for our employees. This includes the AWS Inclusion Pledge, which encourages employees to commit to inclusion through micro-learnings and other resources designed to help them build inclusion in their day-to-day activities, as well as our Global Inclusion Ambassadors, who help drive greater inclusion across the organization. In Q1 2023, 90 per cent of AWS employees indicated the team they’re on helps them feel included at work. Amazon also has 13 affinity groups, also known as employee resource groups, which bring Amazon employees together across businesses and locations around the world.

We also have programmes to help level the playing field where inequitable outcomes may exist. One example of this is the AWS ID&E Innovation Fund, an annual programme that provides micro-grants for employees to support social impact organisations that transform the lives of individuals from underrepresented groups. In 2022, it funded 28 projects that impacted approximately 60,000 people worldwide. Additional examples include the AWS Impact Accelerator, a $30M, three-year commitment to support early-stage startups led by Black, Latino, LGBTQIA+, and women founders, as well as the AWS AI and ML Scholarship, a $10M programme designed to help underrepresented and underserved students globally for careers in ML and AI.

For the media & entertainment (M&E) industry, it is important to continue to increase representation on-screen and behind the camera. At Amazon, we track the representation of women and other underrepresented communities in our workforce because we know that diversity helps us build better teams that obsess over and better represent our global customer base. Within the organisation I lead, we are 42 per cent gender diverse and we continue to prioritise developing women in M&E. In 2023, I co-led the creation of the Women at AWS Industries group, where members help solve challenges and advance opportunities for women for both AWS and our customers, including those in M&E.

Advancing inclusion, diversity, and equity is a journey; there isn’t a finish line. We accept that we have work to do and remain committed to investing in new concepts and ideas as the world continues to advance a collective understanding of inclusion, belonging, diversity, and equity.