Apple Leadership Diversity Initiative Crushed by Shareholders Amid Shifting Focus
The proposal to force Apple to accelerate recruitment of executives and board members from more diverse backgrounds failed at the company's shareholders meeting over the weekend. After CEO Tim Cook and Apple pushed against the measure, the proposal was voted down by investors by a big margin.
At Apple's annual shareholders meeting in Cupertino, California this past weekend, Apple investor Tony Maldonado's proposal to institute an "accelerated recruitment policy" for minorities in the company's top leadership ranks was rejected by a vote of nearly 95 percent to 5 percent, according to an early tally reported by IBTimes.
Apple Defends on Diversity
The motion wasn't expected to pass, but the sound rejection of Maldonado's proposal signaled the power of Apple's entrenched leadership at the top ranks and intensified focus on the issue of diversity in technology during the meeting.
Cook had spoken out previously against the measure, calling it an attempt to "micromanage" Apple's leadership. He added that the proposal was restrictive, burdensome and unnecessary "because Apple has demonstrated to shareholders its commitment to inclusion and diversity, which are the core values for our company."
The proposal, though roundly put down, did pressure Apple leadership to speak on diversity again. Apple pointed to over $900 million the company spent on minority and women-owned businesses last year, as well as investments in women and minority talent through strategic partnerships with the National Center for Women and IT and the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, among others. The company hired over 4,000 black and Latino employees last year, and it has accelerated the hiring of women, Latinos, and black employees in general.
After the vote, Cook defended the company's record on diversity, noting that female employees had nearly reached pay parity at 99.6 cents to every dollar male employees earn, regardless of race. According to The Guardian, Cook told shareholders, "There's much more work to do on diversity across the company. I can commit to you we are working very hard on it."
Lack of Leadership Diversity
That may be true, but it doesn't show in Apple's senior executive ranks, which currently include no minorities or women with the exception of senior VP of retail Angela Ahrendts. There are only two women, one black, in Apple's VP ranks, among an otherwise homogeneous group of white men.
Maldonado noticed the company's leadership was, in his words, a "little bit too vanilla," and sought to accelerate change at the top level through the proposal. As he wrote in an exclusive op-ed for Latin Post before the meeting, Maldonado believed Apple wasn't "doing nearly enough to foster and maintain racial and ethnic diversity among senior management and the company's board."
He also emphasized that his point comes from a shareholder interested in increasing diversity at the leadership level not only to improve company culture, but also to ensure Apple's future as an outstanding and profitable innovator in the industry.
"Diversity at Apple isn't solely a social issue; it's a bottom-line financial issue. There's considerable evidence that workforce diversity increases profits and eliminates 'groupthink' from innovative organizational decision-making. With its desire to have greater impact in emerging markets, such as Latin America, China, India and Africa, Apple must more seriously consider the issue of inclusive diversity among senior management and the board of directors," he wrote.
Maldonado wasn't alone in his disappointment in fellow shareholders for rejecting the proposal. Rev. Jesse Jackson, who arguably started the push for diversity in Silicon Valley two years ago at an HP shareholders' meeting, also made a last-minute appeal to shareholders to support Maldonado's proposal.
"Ironically, Apple is already moving in this direction," said Jackson to Apple's investors, according to The Guardian. "The world is diverse... we should not position ourselves to react to inclusion, which leads to growth." That's exactly what 95 percent of Apple's shareholders did over the weekend, however.
Overshadowed by FBI Fight
Of course, the timing of Maldonado's proposal landed diversity in the shadow of a larger issue at the meeting. Just a few days after his op-ed for Latin Post, and only a few weeks before the annual meeting, Apple became locked in a power struggle with the U.S. government over encryption protections.
When the subject came up at the shareholders meeting, several attendees, including Jackson and a representative of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, praised Apple for its principled stand against surveillance and government interference.
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