As we celebrate International Women’s Day at Amazon, our tagline – “Champion. Challenge. Change.” – celebrates women who dare to innovate, lead and uplift others towards a more equal and inclusive workplace.

Amazon celebrates women of all backgrounds who persevere through every day and extraordinary challenges. In the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, women continue to elevate their voices to challenge injustice, champion gender equity, and drive positive change.

Read on to find out more about the female champions past and present who inspire us to challenge for change.

Balvinder Pawar, Business Engagement Manager, Amazon Imaging

Frida Kahlo inspires me every day! She was the first Latin-American female artist to be recognised worldwide for her deeply personal art, channelling her painful life experiences into self-exploration.

Bal who works at Amazon
Balvinder Pawar, Business Engagement Manager, Amazon Imaging

Frida embodies resilience – her vulnerabilities became an important and beautiful part of her life and her art. She taught us to find beauty in everything, even in adversity. She did not conform to any social norms in her time, whether it was her sexuality, the way she dressed, being proud of her body hair or just the open criticisms of herself.

In my life and career, her work reminds me to be confident with my voice, to feel empowered irrespective of change or failure, to bring vulnerability and authenticity to every conversation and most importantly… to be sassy!

This year, we can all challenge for change by being kinder to one another and showing gratitude. It’s the simplest way to cultivate an inclusive and safe environment for all of us where we can bring our true selves to every situation and be respected and valued for who we are.

Rashada Harry, Enterprise Technologist, Amazon Web Services

My inspiration is the African-American mathematician Gladys West – born in the 1930s, her contribution to mathematics helped to shape how we think about science and maths today.

Rashda Harry portrait shot with shoulders and face pointing to camera
Rashada Harry, Enterprise Technologist, Amazon Web Services

In particular, she developed mathematical modelling for the shape of the Earth, and her work developing satellite models went on to become what we now know as the Global Positioning System (GPS).

Now in her 90s, Gladys has always been fascinated by technology throughout her remarkable career. She always looked to find solutions, inspired people around her, and fostered the same culture of diverse thinking that we prize today.

Unfortunately, her legacy had been largely overlooked by the public until recently. She was somebody I found out about when researching role models with a background like mine. When you find a role model who looks like you, with values you aspire to, it can be a powerful motivator.

I employ a lot of those values in my work every day, as well as my work with Your Future, Your Ambition, which has hosted events for more than 7,000 students to help build a more diverse pipeline of STEM talent in the UK.

My mantra for the year ahead is to be accountable. Be a role model. Do your best and help others. You never know who you’re inspiring, or the impact they might have! Especially as a Black female in the innovation sector, it’s so important that we have our voices heard.

Sammia Hamer, Editorial Director, Amazon Publishing

On a personal front, my mother is a huge inspiration!

Sammia Hamer editorial director amazon publishing
Sammia Hamer, Editorial Director, Amazon Publishing

In pop culture, I love Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the bestselling author of Americanah, We Should All Be Feminists, and many other incredible books. Amazon Original Stories recently published a powerful new short story by Adichie, Zikora, that is so brave and elegant in how it deals with patriarchy and motherhood.

Both my mother and Adichie have helped me to realise the power of my unique experiences and remind me not to hide my identity and individuality.

Ambitious, highly intelligent women of colour have blazed a remarkable path. That’s why, as part of my role at Amazon, I’m eager to shine a light on stories and voices we haven’t seen before. I want to push against the status quo and spotlight authors and stories from a range of diverse viewpoints.

To challenge for change this year, my advice is to read widely and read deep – look for stories outside your own personal experience, and don’t be afraid to have honest conversations, no matter how uncomfortable.

Yuyan Zhang, Senior Manager, Amazon Advertising

It has to be the author Charlotte Brontë – I find it so inspiring and impressive that Charlotte had such pioneering ideas of spiritual equality and financial independence for women 200 years ago, at a time when society was male-dominated.

Yuyan, women at Amazon
Yuyan Zhang, Senior Manager, Amazon Advertising

Jane Eyre was a huge success in portraying a new female identity with meaning and dignity. The success of the novel, even after revealing the author’s true gender, planted the seeds of gender equality that are still growing today. Her wise words of self-care and self-respect are still relevant today, especially as we all faced new challenges in the past year.

The character of Jane Eyre, her curiosity and thirst for knowledge, inspires me to push boundaries and seek out adventures. When I work in new areas, or with more experienced colleagues, I take Jane’s courage with me. My confidence is rooted in the inspiration I took from that novel, when I first read it years ago as a young girl in China!

For this year, I’m so encouraged by actions from male allies in gender equality and open recognition of mental health. We need everyone to take part in the change for a more diverse and equal world, knowing that it’s not women’s challenge alone.

How is Amazon celebrating International Women’s Day?

This year our Women@ Amazon employee affinity group, in partnership with teams across Amazon, have prepared a five-day programme of internal events including panel discussions, mentoring opportunities, fitness and meditation classes, and even a virtual art gallery

We’re also extending our IWD activity to customers for the first time with the launch of the IWD Festival on Monday 8th March – a month-long celebration dedicated to showcasing women business owners, makers, entrepreneur, authors, artists and charities.

John Boumphrey, UK Country Manager for Amazon, said: “We have an exciting and inspirational International Women’s Day line-up for our employees and, for the first time, for our customers. We’ve created new ways to celebrate the inspirational women who are champions for change, from musicians to entrepreneurs, to small businesses owners and authors. We are committed to diversity, equity and inclusion across Amazon, and we look forward to celebrating International Women’s Day with our employees and customers across the UK.”

Find out more: Diversity at Amazon