Growing up in a small town in south-west Tasmania, Amazon leader Luke Hardwicke didn’t just keep his sexuality a secret from his family and school friends, he also felt forced to maintain two very different and conflicting identities.

“I came out around 17, and I came out to my workplace before I came out to my family,” reveals Luke, who left high school just before completing his HSC when the pressure to live a lie became too great.

He had the first inkling he was different to the other boys he grew up with when he was still in primary school, but with no gay role models in a small, and at the time, very homophobic country town, he had little choice but to conform.

“Going through high school I was very heterosexual in that environment,” he says.

He took the brave step of moving to the more progressive city of Hobart when he was just 17 to start a new life. It was here that he embraced his true self, eventually telling his boss at the supermarket where he worked that he was gay.

It’s really important that you can be authentic in your workplace!

Luke, 34, says his experience in coming out in his workplace before he came out to his family is anything but unusual, and that as a leader he works hard to make sure everyone feels they can be their authentic selves at work.

“Amazon creates the structure and the framework to make sure inclusion is there and homophobia isn’t - and there is a zero tolerance for it. That gives some comfort for people to allow them to be themselves,” he says.

It’s a big part of why he decided to join Amazon Australia three years ago, after spending 15 years working in executive roles for a major supermarket chain.

“I went through the interview process, and I wasn’t really looking for a new role,” he says.

“I shared who I was from the first moment. In my interviews I was very open and I felt really comfortable to say I had a partner, Andrew, who is an electrician and we have two dogs.”

Luke Glamazon

Glamazon helps create a safe and diverse workplace

The leader, who is responsible for about 400 staff, including four operations managers and 13 area managers and their teams, has also taken on pivotal role with Glamazon, Amazon’s LGBTQIA+ employee affinity group, in Australia and New Zealand.

Luke says Glamazon is about a lot more than providing support for LGBTQIA+ employees and fighting discrimination through important milestones like International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT) on May 17.

He says it also takes a leading role in educating employees about issues, including a recent workshop about confusion over pronouns, and also welcomes “straight” allies and family members of LGBTQIA+ staff.

“We need to ensure that we have a great inclusive environment,” he says, admitting he loves how diverse the Amazon workforce was in terms of cultural background, race, sexuality and religious beliefs.

I lead by example when it comes to DEI: Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Luke says he gets involved in many activities, be it the morning teas and fancy dress-up days Glamazon has organised for IDAHOBIT, or other events to mark different cultural events and traditions.

“I have to be really comfortable in who I am and show that it’s okay as a senior leader,” he says, explaining that he wears his pronoun pins (he/him, they/them) every day and embraces all cultures to make everyone feel welcome.

“One of the biggest things I’ve done to promote DEI is organise additional training,” he says, pointing to a training session he organised last year to help confused people understand the difference between gender and sexuality.

DEI has long been integral to Amazon with Luke pointing out that he had never before worked somewhere that included a DEI tip during a daily briefing highlighting safety and quality tips on top of success stories.

“Those little things and those little messages on a daily basis can make a big difference. When you walk into one of Amazon’s fulfilment centres and you see giant rainbows on the ground. It’s those little messages that make people feel comfortable to be who they are – and that’s really important to me as a site lead!”

Learn more about Affinity Groups at Amazon