Jen has been breaking down barriers for much of her adult life. She came out as a trans woman to her volunteer fire brigade mates in Victoria seven years ago, and competes in a pioneering roller derby league that celebrates inclusivity.
“It was probably the scariest moment of my life when I came out in the CFA (Country Fire Authority)” reveals Jen, 39, who has worked as a data centre engineer for Amazon Web Services in Melbourne for the past two years.
“I’d been with the CFA for a year and half – and then came out as a trans woman. I moved to be closer to work, so I’m with a different brigade now over in the western suburbs of Melbourne. They treat me as me and that’s as far as the conversation goes.”
It took courage to come out, but then Jen has no shortage of bravery, having fought fires, including the terrifying 2019 fires in Mallacoota and Orbost in East Gippsland, that saw thousands of people stranded on beaches and 60 homes destroyed.
She also faced the challenge of having to leave a former job because of homophobic bullying, which is part of the reason she’s on a mission to help educate people about gender, and promote diversity and acceptance in the workplace.
Fortunately, she has found Amazon Australia to be a much more enlightened and accepting workplace, and one open to even further improving it’s inclusivity when it comes to trans and gender-diverse employees and issues.
Jen, who shares her Melbourne home with partner, Lauren and their two “fur babies” says Amazon Australia has already adopted new measures like pronouns in email signatures and in the internal phone directory, and encourages everyone to bring their authentic self to work.
“It’s 100 per cent important to bring your authentic self to work because when you bring your authentic self to the office you are more creative, more engaged, and more switched on. And your work product is better,” she says.
“The gang I work with couldn’t care less, as long as I put in and share ideas. We look after each other and have each other’s back. That’s all that matters. I really do feel like I’m part of a work community.”
Jen joined the ANZ board of Glamazon, Amazon’s LGBTQIA + Employee Affinity Group, and started to put together training videos for trans-affirming workplaces, using gender non-conforming people telling their stories, to help all staff understand and embrace gender diversity.
The series of videos has been successful in breaking down confusion and stereotypes surrounding gender issues, that it’s now being considered as a training tool for Amazon globally, after their presentation at last week’s Glamazon World Pride Summit in Sydney.
This, and the ready acceptance of her authentic self at Amazon Australia, has given Jen plenty to celebrate.
“What it means to me is that it celebrates everybody for who they are and what they are, and it tries to break down the barriers between genders that exist at the moment,” Jen says.
“It is designed to take away a lot of the whole old hat thinking and turns it back into what really should be the conversation - about what people are capable of doing as opposed to just being about what would be a specific gender.
“It celebrates the fact that women - no matter who they are or what they are - are capable of doing pretty much anything.”