6 min read

Dec. 16, 2022

AWS employees describe parental and fertility benefits that provide space and flexibility

These four AWS employees share how fertility benefits and parental leaves helped them feel valued as they prioritized their personal and professional lives

Written by the Life at AWS team

Joaquin Gonzalez, practice manager and head of infrastructure, security & DevOps for the AWS Professional Services organization in Germany.

Alissa Gordon always assumed she’d go the traditional route when it came to starting a family—find a partner, get married, then have children. As she got older and hadn’t found the right person, she considered becoming a single mother by choice.

“I got to the point in my life where I was like, ‘Who am I waiting for? What am I waiting for?’” she said. “If I truly want to be a parent and this is something that’s important to me, do I really need to have a partner to do that?”

Gordon, AWS healthcare & life sciences account manager, startups, felt secure in her ability to provide for a child, and she attributes the COVID-19 pandemic for providing necessary alone time to reflect on what truly mattered to her. She didn’t want to let more time pass without trying to become a mother.

“This is where working at AWS was great because not only do we have great maternity and parental leave, but we also have fertility benefits,” she said. “And to get pregnant without a partner, you obviously need fertility treatments.”

Because each country has specific requirements for how Amazon may offer Paid Parental Leave and fertility benefits, employees are directed to specific country information to find the relevant policies that apply to them. Family leave coverage in the United States, where Gordon is based, generally spans a mix of pre-partum leave before the due date, post-partum leave for after-delivery recovery, and parent-child bonding time.

Life at AWS sat down with Gordon and four other AWS employees around the world to learn about their experiences using their respective company benefits for which they were eligible, including fertility, maternity, and paternity benefits. Catch up on their stories below.

 

 

“AWS is a place where you can make space for yourself,. Whether that’s for your hobbies, passions, or your family that you want to make space for—it can be anything you want—but this is a workplace where you can bring your true self to work and have flexibility that comes in many forms.”

Alissa Gordon
AWS healthcare & life sciences account manager, startups

Fertility— a ‘life-changing benefit’

Gordon knew becoming a single mother by choice came with significant financial responsibility. While she was committed to going through the process with or without fertility benefits, the benefits took away most of the financial burden and helped her make the decision more quickly.

She kicked off the process by heading over to the Amazon benefits portal to discover how to activate fertility benefits that would help her through In vitro fertilization (IVF).

“It's quite expensive to go through IVF and having that benefit from Amazon is amazing—whether you are a single mother by choice or whether you're in a relationship and facing infertility, having coverage for that is a truly life-changing benefit,” Gordon said.

She connected with dedicated customer service partners to talk her through how the benefits worked, what the coverages would include, and to make sure she navigated the process correctly to get the most out of her benefits.

“Once I was registered with the provider, it essentially acts like its own health insurance. Then you find a doctor—a reproductive endocrinologist— who accepts it, it’s billed through your Amazon health insurance, and then you end up just paying your out-of-pocket maximum for the year,” Gordon said. “Everything else is covered.”

Fast-forward to October 2021 and Gordon was welcoming her daughter into the world. She needed a support structure in place as she prepared for single motherhood—while pregnant, she moved from Brooklyn, N.Y. back to Massachusetts, where she’s from, to be closer to her mother once the baby was born—and another Amazon benefit helped her get the time off before her due date to prepare for this massive life transition: pre-partum leave. She was eligible for four weeks of pre-partum leave to prepare for life as a mother.

“I think the pre-partum leave also helped me give myself the space to think about how my life was going to change and reflect on this journey,” she said. “It was really invaluable.”

As an account manager, she also wanted to make sure her customers were taken care of during her absence. Her team stepped in to cover for her, and she felt she was truly able to disconnect to spend uninterrupted time with her daughter. She’s found that she’s been able to have the flexibility to continue to balance her priorities between home and work life long after returning from maternity leave, too.

“AWS is a place where you can make space for yourself,” Gordon said. “Whether that’s for your hobbies, passions, or your family that you want to make space for—it can be anything you want—but this is a workplace where you can bring your true self to work and have flexibility that comes in many forms.”

“The other aspect that’s great about Amazon is that the company listens to its employees and cultivates new ways of working. I feel proud to be an Amazonian and I feel like it's awesome to work at a company that's constantly looking to disconfirm its own beliefs.”
Samira Bakhtiar
director of global media and entertainment at AWS

"A company that prioritizes inclusion, diversity, and equity"

Samira Bakhtiar, director of global media and entertainment at AWS based in New York City, came back from four months of maternity leave at the end of 2021 and said the time off wouldn’t have been as impactful if she weren’t able to disconnect from work to be fully present with her family. The AWS workplace culture—beyond the corporate benefits and policies that provide parental benefits—helped ensure her time away wasn’t spent worrying about what she was missing at work.

“Giving birth is no joke and the recovery isn't a picnic either ... so I am proud to be coming back to a company and team that allows its employees the time to recover, relax (as much as you can with a newborn), and thrive,” Bakhtiar posted on LinkedIn upon her return.

This was Bakhtiar’s second maternity leave, and first while employed at AWS. The first time around, while working for a different company, she felt more insecurities around what it would be like to take maternity leave as a first-time mother in a male-dominated industry and workplace. Fast-forward to her leave at AWS, and she not only had the experience under her belt to know things wouldn’t fall apart in her absence, she also saw first-hand the tangible benefits of a company that prioritizes inclusion, diversity, and equity.

“Here, I was with females who were just getting married or people who identify as women who were just getting married and looking to start their own families. Or I’d be traveling for work and would meet other pregnant women or male colleagues who were expecting,” she said. “So the fact that we have really focused on hiring for diversity provides an environment that when you are in that situation, you don’t feel so insecure because you’re not the anomaly. You can have a family, take time off, and have a team that will support you while you’re out.”

Bakhtiar adds, “The other aspect that’s great about Amazon is that the company listens to its employees and cultivates new ways of working. I feel proud to be an Amazonian and I feel like it's awesome to work at a company that's constantly looking to disconfirm its own beliefs.”


 

 

“It can be easy to feel guilty about taking time away from work for your family. I was certainly apprehensive at first, but the combination of mechanisms to support and the culture of the leadership made me feel fully supported throughout. It’s unlike anywhere else I’ve ever worked in that regard.”
Josh Sewell
AWS senior partner sales manager, Australia and New Zealand

Normalizing paternity leave

In 2021, Joaquin Gonzalez embarked upon a two-month parental leave to spend time with his family and bond with his daughter just 10 months after he joined AWS. Gonzalez, a practice manager and head of infrastructure, security & DevOps for the AWS Professional Services organization in Germany, sought this time off to focus on sharing special moments and bonding with his daughter. In late 2022, Gonzalez returned from a second parental leave after the birth of his second child.

“Interestingly, these leaves also helped me bring some distance to the daily work and provided me with time to reflect on my personal and professional priorities,” Gonzalez said. “At AWS, I have found a company culture that encourages parents to take the time they need to connect with their families, as well as a high level of flexibility to adapt your work schedule to your specific individual needs.”

The leaves have also made Gonzalez feel valued. Not only were his manager and peers incredibly supportive as they took on additional workloads during his absence, he said AWS also provided an inclusive atmosphere where he felt he could thrive.

“Creating an encouraging culture in which taking paternity leave is normalized and men can share their positive experiences is pivotal for such stories to become daily routine,” he said. “AWS is a company that exemplifies diversity. Creating an environment where parents can feel included makes a big difference for me as employee and to feel connected with the purpose of this organization.”

In Perth, Australia, Josh Sewell echoed that same sentiment. He took four weeks of paid paternity leave for the birth of his first child in mid-2022. He felt that as a relatively new employee, this benefit proved that AWS prioritizes its people and is committed to supporting families and work-life balance.

“It can be easy to feel guilty about taking time away from work for your family. I was certainly apprehensive at first, but the combination of mechanisms to support and the culture of the leadership made me feel fully supported throughout,” Sewell said. “It’s unlike anywhere else I’ve ever worked in that regard.”

See how AWS is building a workplace where more people can thrive, so we can build technology that works better for everyone.


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