The theme for International Women’s Day 2017

Two Amazon employees discuss women in the workplace and what this year’s International Women’s Day theme means to them. Jenna Chung, Head of Clothing Vendor Management, Amazon UK, interviews Susan Saideman, Vice President of Fashion, Amazon EU.

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Jenna: What does this year's theme mean to you?

Susan: For me it’s about being bold with your vision and starting from there, using not an incremental approach but a think big strategy. Look three to five years out. What do you want to achieve for the business and for your own career, and how do you make your vision a reality in that timeframe? What do you think, Jenna?

“Believe in yourself because you can do anything. And don’t let anybody tell you differently.”
Susan Saideman

Jenna: For me personally, it means stepping out of your comfort zone. It’s easy to stay at a job you don’t love or accept a situation that is not perfect. But positive changes happen in your life when you reject the status quo and try new things.

Jenna: What small changes can women make in their everyday working lives to be bolder in our decision making?

Susan: One thing women tend to do is let others speak first, especially in large meetings. And if you do that, you don’t get noticed. You need to speak up. Otherwise, why are you there? When I was in business school we were graded partly on participation, so I learned how to speak up even when it felt uncomfortable. And that is probably one of the most important things I got out of business school. Don’t be shy. Your biggest critic is yourself. One way to do this is to ask questions, both to clarify your own thinking on an issue, but also to challenge and improve the approach of the business.

Jenna: I agree and would add: be vocal about what you want. For example, I was very vocal with my last manager at Shopbop (a women’s fashion website in the United States and an Amazon company). I was living in New York and I wanted international experience. Specifically, I wanted to live in London. And because I was vocal about it, I got what I wanted. If you know what you want to achieve, let that be known.

Jenna: What advice would you give to other women embarking on a career in business?

Susan: Broadly I would say, believe in yourself because you can do anything. And don’t let anybody tell you differently. But know that you need to build the skills and the capabilities to deliver against your vision. Also, I would highlight the importance of networking. Build relationships within your organisation and more broadly throughout the company or the industry you work in. Some people think if they are doing a good job, they will get appreciated. But people might not notice because there is a lot going on within any organisation. You need to do a great job, and get to know other parts of the company and the world.

Jenna: If you could change one thing to better support women in business, what would that be?

Susan: Make more time for mentoring, both to mentor others and to be mentored. It is a great way to get advice and support from others and to get a broader view of the world. Mentoring is something that takes time and effort on both sides but the mentee needs to drive the agenda.

Jenna: I know it’s a very big wish, but I would add that I’d like to see an end to gender inequality in the workplace. I see that senior executive positions within many companies are still mostly held by men. Man or woman, we should all be judged on our ability and intelligence, not gender.

Jenna: Any final thoughts?

Susan: You asked great questions, Jenna. I would encourage women to go ask questions like these of others and network!

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Jenna Chung was born in Seoul, South Korea. She grew up in Michigan and received her Bachelors of Science degree in Industrial & Operations Engineering from the University of Michigan. After graduating, she started a career in the automotive industry as an engineer but quickly realized it wasn’t for her. She then went to work for the Gap and then Coach. She was always interested in fashion and found a way to combine it with her day-to-day job. When Amazon.co.uk called, Jenna took the job and moved to London, four years ago.

Susan Saideman was born in New York City and went to Dartmouth College in Hanover New Hampshire where she earned a BA in Economics. She also earned an MBA from Harvard Business School in Boston. She has worked at several companies including PepsiCo, Campbell Soup and Mars, where she led international retail businesses. When Amazon called with the opportunity to create a new function – Global Vendor Management – she could not resist the chance to join a company she loved as a customer with the chance to help Amazon vendors globally. In her current role, Susan leads the Amazon fashion business for the EU.