Amazon’s next CEO defends the company against racial bias reports in an internal note but says there’s “a lot of work to do”
Andy Jassy, the CEO of Amazon Web Services and successor to Jeff Bezos. | Asa Mathat for Vox Media Andy Jassy was responding to allegations in a Recode investigation and an employee lawsuit. In the wake of a Recode investigation detailing allegations that Black workers face an unlevel playing field in Amazon’s corporate offices, the company’s future CEO defended Amazon while also acknowledging, “[W]e have a lot of work to do.”
In an internal email on Monday addressed to leaders of Amazon’s Black employee affinity group that Recode viewed, Andy Jassy, who will replace Jeff Bezos as Amazon’s CEO later this year , said he felt recent articles about racial equity at Amazon were “skewed portraits of the company.”
“It’s easy to paint these anecdotes as the norm, even when they’re not,” Jassy wrote.
But Jassy then added that “there were enough anecdotes, and enough people in our Black community at Amazon who have shared that they weren’t shocked by these stories, that it reinforces to me that we have a lot of work to do.”
“No person at Amazon should have experiences like these,” Jassy wrote.
Jassy sent the email 10 days after Recode reported on allegations from more than a dozen current and former corporate employees who said that Black workers at the company often face both direct and insidious bias that harms them professionally and personally. Some of the allegations came from current and former Amazon diversity and inclusion professionals — employees whose work focuses on helping Amazon create and maintain an equitable workplace. They told Recode that Black employees are promoted at a lower rate than non-Black peers; Recode also viewed internal data from one division of Amazon that indicated Black employees receive the lowest grade in performance reviews more often than all other colleagues. Amazon disputed this data but declined to provide alternate information.
A few days after Recode’s report, Charlotte Newman, a Black senior manager in Amazon Web Services, filed a lawsuit against Amazon and current executives for alleged race and gender discrimination, and for allegedly violating the Equality Pay Act. The suit, which cited Recode’s investigation, also alleged that a former Amazon executive sexually harassed and assaulted the AWS manager.
After Recode’s reports, Amazon offered corporate employees the opportunity to gather together in large “listening” groups via videoconferences to discuss their reactions to the stories as well as their own experiences at the company and those of their peers, according to multiple sources. In at least one division of the company, organizers had to add additional listening sessions after hundreds of employees showed up virtually to the first one, eclipsing the limit allowed for the videoconference.
Jassy, who is also the executive sponsor for Amazon’s Black Employee Network (BEN), seemed to allude to the listening...