Apple Shareholders Strike Down Diversity Proposal
Diversity in Silicon Valley suffered a serious blow Wednesday when Apple shareholders rejected a diversity proposal aimed at the company’s leadership. For the second year in a row Apple shareholders rejected a proposal requiring the company to improve the diversity of its top leadership. Over 95 percent of the shareholders voted to oppose the measure. Slightly more than last year.
Shareholder Tony Maldonado with support from Zevin Asset Management, a company that specializes in socially responsible investing, submitted the proposal asking Apple to “adopt an accelerated recruitment policy … to increase the diversity of senior management and its board of directors.” Maldonado and Zevin’s argument was that Apple’s were moving too slowly when it came to initiating Apple’s own diversity initiatives.
Maldonado did not expect the initiative to pass. But he needed at least 6 percent of the vote in order to re-introduce the measure next year. Be he failed to get that percentage killing the proposal for the next three years. Apple’s leadership contributed to killing the proposal by urging shareholders to reject the proposal. Apple’s executives are 82 percent white, and its senior leadership is almost entirely white.
Apple’s board, in a filing with the SEC, wrote a note lobbying shareholders to vote against the proposal. The company clams it’s diversity program is “much broader” and that its diversity efforts in the past three years, has made “steady progress in attracting more women and underrepresented minorities.” Apple believes the proposal “is not necessary or appropriate because we have already demonstrated our commitment to a holistic view of inclusion and diversity.” Apple’s diverity efforts are considered to be the most successful in the tech sector.
Apple reported last year that women comprised 37% percent of new hires (versus 32% of current employees.) Apple includes “Black, Hispanic, Native American, Native Hawaiian, and Other Pacific Islander” in the underrepresented group and counts new hires within the last 12 months as of June.
Maldonado told The Verge that Apple’s CEO “Tim Cook was very defensive, and he presented the two black people on their leadership, but not senior leadership, as a sign of their diversity. Personally, I took it as an insult. They were put on the spotlight as ‘here’s tokenism,’ and he didn’t seem to accept that.”
However a report from Mashable points out an untold fact about diversity at the senior level of Apple leadership. The hiring process inside Apple requires some seniority. To reach the senior executive level at Apple you likely have been with the company for some time, decades. Through Apple’s ups and downs and the dawn of the Internet diversity was not the huge concern it is today. As a result those who have hung in there at Apple are more likely than not, white males. Some of Apple’s senior leadership have been with the company since 1987. It should be noted that Apple’s Vice President of World Wide Human Resources, Denise Young Smith, is a black woman and James A. Bell, a black man ,sits on the board of directors.
Speaking to The Verge Maldonado said, “Apple basically duped the investors, to be quite honest. They conned ’em to say, ‘Look, we’re on top of it. Don’t worry about it. Everything’s fine.’ However, I believe that shareholders don’t have all information as to the background of the issue.”
Apple has not addressed the vote but in its original statement on Maldonado’s proposal, the company believes its existing diversity efforts were sufficient. “Our ongoing efforts to increase diversity are much broader than the ‘accelerated recruitment policy’ requested by this proposal.” The company added that it takes “a holistic view of inclusion and diversity” that extends to even app developers and suppliers.
Maldonado stressed there’s more he could have done to educate other shareholders. “For some strange reason, I would say that shareholders have the belief that by accepting this proposal, the company would be forced to establish reverse discrimination policies. We just have to probably expand on the campaign on educating all shareholders, including institution shareholders, that this is more beneficial and at the end of the long run it will help us to improve our bottom line.”