Amazon Vice President of Safety, Sustainability, Security & Compliance Carletta Ooton shares her career journey and views on gender parity

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Amazon VP Carletta Ooton reflects on her path to leadership

Amazon VP Carletta Ooton reflects on her path to leadership

 March 24, 2020

Amazon's Vice President of Safety, Sustainability, Security & Compliance Carletta Ooton reflects on her path to leadership and why she’s passionate about gender equality.

Encouraged by a supportive father

"I really didn’t internalize the gap in gender parity until I was in high school. I was raised by my dad because my mom died when I was just seven. Long story short, my junior year of high school, I went in to register for classes. My plan was to take as many math and sciences courses as possible so I’d be ready to go to college. At the time, I thought I wanted to become doctor because I loved any and all things science-related. But, my plan hit a major road block when the school counselor would not let me double-up on my science classes. Instead, he insisted that I take home economics, a 'supposed' elective, which, certainly back in the day, was a class girls were expected to take. I was crushed. Thankfully, my dad took serious exception to my counselor’s 'counsel'. He jumped in and made sure I was able to take the exact classes I wanted, which included Desert Biology & Ecology and AP Biology. This was a pivotal moment for my life’s trajectory," Carletta recalls.

Carletta describes her dad as pretty forward thinking for his time. Some parents, particularly when she was growing up, might have gone with the flow and deferred to the counselor – to their daughter’s detriment. But her dad had a message he constantly told her as she grew up.

"He ingrained in me the idea that I could do anything I wanted if I was willing to work hard and apply myself. He was also the biggest believer in education being my ticket out of the small town in rural Arizona where we lived," Carletta comments.

"The day he helped me take the classes I wanted was the day that his words turned into action, and also the day when I began believing that anything was possible. To say this left a lasting mark on me diminishes how vital this was to my life; those extra classes in high school helped set the course for my future studies, gave an awkward 15-year old “nerd” an extraordinary dose of confidence, and, I deeply believe, changed my personal trajectory."

Paying it forward as a female leader

Carletta Ooton Amazon speaker

"I have made it my mission as a women leader to pay it forward. Not everyone is lucky enough to have a fantastic father or mother to stand up for them. I mentor and sponsor females and make it my mission to help drive gender diversity in STEM programs. I’m extremely proud of this and don’t ever apologize for trying to correct a pervasive gender imbalance in STEM! It doesn’t mean that I don’t mentor and sponsor others. But I have a unique perspective as it relates to women, and I intend to use it towards a cause I deeply believe in," Carletta continues.

"I am very proud that the organization I lead at Amazon is completely bought into inclusion and diversity. We’re like this for many reasons, starting with the simple fact that it’s the right thing to do for our people and for the millions of Amazon customers every Amazonian obsesses over. Ultimately I am blessed with one of the coolest jobs on the planet, leading the best team in the world, and I want others have the same type of opportunities."

Carletta closes her thoughts with a couple of questions and a challenge: What are you doing to help drive gender parity and helping to truly create equal opportunity? What more could you do to help move the needle on gender parity and opportunity?

"My challenge to you is pretty easy to meet: find more ways to engage on gender parity and make sure those around you hear your message. The more leaders we have working on this every day, the faster we will get to the finish line," she asserts. "I want to make sure that my daughter, your daughter(s) and our future female leaders have the level playing field that each of them deserves – and that our global community deserves – to reach their potential."

Read Carletta's full article on LinkedIn.

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