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February 9, 2023
Celebrating influential Black Americans in Freight
“Successful transportation companies will embrace diversity, equity, and inclusion because the most innovative teams are multicultural and bring together diverse perspectives.”

That’s Rebecca Salt, Head of Marketing for Amazon Freight, and one of many leaders at Amazon dedicated to DEI inside and outside of the workplace. “Everyone’s voice be heard because diversity of experiences and thought propel the freight industry, and all who are in it, forward.”

While many in the transportation field are dedicated to DEI, the industry has a long way to go. According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2020, only 17% of Black Americans held positions in transportation.

Yet without the contributions from yesterday’s Black leaders in freight, we couldn’t have gotten to where we are today. As we celebrate Black History Month, we honor Black historical figures who have innovated in transportation, hear from diverse leaders who are shaping the field today, and offer some DEI tips to help build a more inclusive industry tomorrow.

Meet inspiring Black Americans
Have you ever wondered who figured out that refrigeration would improve long-haul trucking? Meet the prolific Black inventor Frederick McKinley Jones who, before anyone else, saw how an automatic refrigeration system could eliminate the risk of food and cargo spoilage for long-distance shipping. He patented the system in 1949, and, afterward, it became widely adapted for carriers including trailers, ships, and railroad cars.

We commemorate Jones’ life and legacy, as he passed away on February 21, 1961, with over 60 patents to his name. His invention altered our eating habits, and, today, we are used to eating fresh produce all year long thanks to his ingenuity and efforts.

Lois Cooper is another Black American who transformed transportation. In 1953, she became the first female African American transportation engineer to work for the Engineering Department at the Division of Highways, now known as the California Department of Transportation. A highly skilled mathematician, she is attributed with shaping our freeways, including the I-105 Century Freeway, the San Diego Freeway, the Long Beach Freeway, the San Gabriel River Freeway, and the Riverside Freeway.

Cooper also helped shape future generations of Black STEM leaders. Through the Los Angeles Council of Black Professional Engineers, she taught and shared the importance of math, science, and engineering as a profession to students.

Hear from the industry’s future leaders on diversity
Jones and Cooper paved the way for more diversity among today’s transportation professionals.

Meet Caprice Spann, Senior Manager, Delivery Performance, Amazon Freight, who started her career at an Amazon Fulfillment Center and was promoted to a role in the Operations Center.

When asked how we can achieve a diverse team at every level of the organization, Spann says businesses should hire and promote from within. “Amazon has a lot of diversity largely due to its Fulfillment Centers and transportation components of the business. Amazon tends to promote from within which is the best way to show your DEI talent that the things that label them DEI don’t matter here at Amazon.”

Spann suggests that other companies follow suit. They can provide management training to employees who perform well and promote them. She also recommends they create a program for grooming deserving DEI candidates for leadership. Such programs aim to “balance the invisible weight held against DEI employees by the hand of deeply rooted systemic behavior.”

“The entire organization hierarchy should reflect the face of all its people,” says Spann.

Meet Tamika Durham, Program Manager, Learning & Development, Amazon Freight.

According to Durham, her Amazon career has been heavily influenced by her identity. “My 5 years at Amazon, immersed in the most diverse workforce I’ve ever experienced, have changed me. I’ve been privileged to work shoulder-to-shoulder with our hourly and salaried employees in both our Fulfillment Centers and corporate offices.”

She also shares how much she has developed professionally through her experiences. “I’ve contributed independently and managed people, learning about the lives and experiences of hundreds of people who have become mirrors for myself. I am not the same person I was when I first joined Amazon.”

When asked what she would recommend other companies do regarding cultivating the best and diverse talent, Durham says, “As one of the oldest industries on the planet, logistics has had difficulty reimagining its way forward and challenging the way things have always been done. Amazon Freight is paving the way for a new world of logistics. It will be an arduous journey, but Amazon is tenacious in its desire to improve upon the status quo through diverse thought. I look forward to being a part of that.”

Embrace DEI tips from Amazon
This year’s theme for Black History Month at Amazon is Remarkably Black, and we encourage everyone—inside and outside of Amazon—to support their peers, attend BHM-themed events, and shop in Amazon’s Buy Black Store.

Members of the Amazon Freight team provide DEI Tips to their coworkers via email each week. Below, we’ve included tips for the industry.

DEI Tip #1: “Companies should represent and model the diversity you want to see with quality diverse candidates in leadership. We are here,” shares Durham.

DEI Tip #2: “It’s important to enable talent from diverse backgrounds to see themselves, and see that their needs and aspirations can be met in a career with your company. One example of how Amazon helps carriers to do this is with this video series that features commercial drivers who tell their personal experiences driving with an Amazon Freight Partner. These real and relatable stories build emotional and rational connections,” says Dorcas Williams, Sr. Marketing Manager, who also leads diversity, equity, and inclusion strategy for Amazon Freight Partner.

According to a recent Gartner study, DEI goals for hiring practices are extremely important. In fact, the study found the best-performing organizations commit to DEI goals and train leaders how to weave inclusivity into their daily leadership practices.

“We can all do more,” says Salt. “As leaders, we must insist on the highest standards when it comes to DEI in the workplace. We must insist that every voice is heard and DEI is considered in everything we do from hiring, to leading teams, to delivering for our customers.”

Learn more about DEI at Amazon.
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