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On IWD, Nadine Abou El-Gheit shares Amazon’s women empowerment policies

Nadine Abou El-Gheit has been with Amazon as a MENA community engagement manager since June 2020. Prior to this, Abou El-Gheit worked for over ten years at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), first as a programme assistant focused on environment and energy, and later as a programme analyst focused on innovation for development.

She has a Master of Arts in international development from the American University in Cairo (AUC).

On International Women’s Day this year, Amwal Al Ghad English has interviewed Abou El-Gheit to share her experiences along with Amazon’s strategies and policies to empower women in Egypt and worldwide.

Q. Tell us about your role within Amazon.

Abou El-Gheit: I lead Amazon’s Community Engagement Portfolio in the MENA region, designing and executing programmes and campaigns that create a positive impact on the communities in which we live and work, leveraging Amazon’s scale, logistical, and operational infrastructures and teams as the key assets behind it being a force for good. Our portfolio demonstrates our belief in the role we must play in our community as a socially responsible company and gives our employees the opportunity to also give back through our volunteer programmes.

Q. Why is it important for women to consider Community Engagement Management as a worthwhile and fulfilling career?

Abou El-Gheit: Every employee in Amazon must be empowered/equipped to become a socially responsible citizen inside and outside of Amazon for us to be able to really move the needle in socio-economic development, otherwise development programmes will remain cosmetic. Empowerment of our employees is thus one of our key targets and seeing the impact that our interventions can make on people — deep rather than superficial — is incredibly rewarding. We have the potential to impact hundreds of thousands of lives across the region while innovating ways of doing so at a critical time.

Q. What are the main barriers that hold women back from entering the workplace?

Abou El-Gheit: While both women and men wear multiple hats, women usually bear a heavier lift in supporting their parents and siblings as well as their husband and children and thus may require more flexible working arrangements. They are also more vulnerable to the imposter syndrome and thus do not apply to jobs, especially in leadership positions, or believe they can sit at tables they may be perfectly qualified for. They also assume they will be victims of microaggressions at the workplace, especially in roles commonly dominated by men, such as Operations roles, and so tend to avoid headwinds like these.

Q. How are these being overcome at Amazon?

Abou El-Gheit: Our Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Vision statement is not a string of words that sounds good, or a tick in a box, it’s a North Star we use in the design of all our policies, practices, programmes, and systems. From affinity groups to mentorship programmes and networks, flexible/remote working arrangements, incredibly aware and empathic leaders who understand the importance of inclusive management, to stretch goals on recruitment, retention, and growth, Amazon is a company that practices what it preaches. As we strive to hire and develop the best, we constantly look for ways to recognise and reward women in Amazon who raise the bar. We are a data-obsessed company and make no assumptions nor resort to a one-size-fits-all approach. We dive deep to identify and eliminate the challenges discussed above, as well as others that women continue to face in the MENA region. We identify “Best at Amazon” worldwide and strategise to be even better. It’s all part of our Day 1 mental model.

Q. How important is it to attract young, talented female staff to the industry?

Abou El-Gheit: Women make up nearly 50 percent of the workforce. Not making enough effort to recruit and retain and empower this group means that companies essentially lose out on 50 percent of the talent available in the market. Amazon’s customer base is incredibly diverse, and its workforce is intentionally designed to be reflective of that, so that we may continue to effectively obsess over our customers: serving them better. Having more young female staff in the company means having more women to design gender-aware/sensitive programs and policies, and so the environment will continue to become more and more relevant to women until we reach gender neutrality of our policies/programmes. More young females in Operations roles will eventually normalise their presence in the field until it is no longer a subject of discussion.

Q. How supportive is Amazon of female staff? What can it offer women, especially those with families, that other employers can’t?

Abou El-Gheit: Amazon values women greatly, some of the many perks we see on a day to day include increased flexibility for our staff, mentoring programmes and leadership trainings that are designed to help women employees feel valued, engaged, and motivated to stay on the path to leadership. Amazon makes every effort to ensure a diverse and inclusive workplace for women is in place in order for them to feel safe and empowered to bring their whole self to work and to inspire them to continue in the organisation. Outside of dedicated trainings, Amazon encourages leaders to keep inclusion front of mind by allocating the first five minutes of leadership meetings to sharing safety and inclusion tips, along with celebrating success stories – it is a simple but impactful way to highlight the importance of inclusion daily.

Q. If International Women’s Day 2023 could change or highlight one area of the working environment for women what would that be and why?

Abou El-Gheit: Employee awareness is key – from how to communicate more effectively, to the various types of unconscious biases we may have, to how people may unintentionally practice microaggressions, we need to educate our employees on understanding all those terms, the impact of such actions, and continue to drive the conversation around diversity and inclusion to ensure a safe workplace for everyone.

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