Diversity in Tech: Pressure Mounts on Rest of Silicon Valley as Intel, Apple Hit Gender Pay Equity Goals
Within Silicon Valley's diversity problem -- the under representation of minorities and women in the technology industry -- is a larger issue that has affected women across business for a long time: the gender pay equity gap.
Momentum is growing behind the movement to close that gap, as Apple has become the second big firm to commit to embrace gender pay equity. Many other top U.S. technology companies are facing proxy season votes and direct shareholder pressure to focus on the issue as well.
Signs of Progress
The first company to achieve gender pay equity this year was Intel. As Latin Post previously reported, when the leading tech company on diversity released its bi-annual diversity report for 2015 in February, one of the most impressive accomplishments touted by the chip maker was that it had achieved 100 percent gender pay equity for all of its female employees, at all levels of the company, in the U.S.
On Tuesday, Apple confirmed to shareholders that it was the second major tech company to essentially achieve gender pay equity, reaching 99.6 percent equal pay across the company in the U.S.
Now those pressuring the rest of Silicon Valley to do the same are planning to move on to Google, Microsoft, EBay, Facebook and other top technology firms to push for more results. One group leading the charge is Arjuna Capital, a progressive partnership with Baldwin Brothers Inc. that focuses on sustainable wealth management and activism on issues such as the gender pay equity gap.
"The excellent moves by Intel and now Apple on gender pay equity means that the clock is ticking for the rest of America's major technology companies," said Natasha Lamb, director of equity research and shareholder engagement at Arjuna, in a statement released to Latin Post. "Silicon Valley can no longer claim this is an issue unworthy of its attention. Gender pay equity is critical to creating a diverse and innovative workforce and tech companies cannot sit this discussion out -- they have to speak up for fair pay."
More Pressure on the Valley
Arjuna is pushing to bring the issue up at shareholder meetings and proxy ballots of other major Silicon Valley companies going into the spring of this year. The firm has filed seven resolutions at leading tech companies asking them to commit to closing the gender pay equity gap.
The progressive Arjuna Capital noted that Ebay's vote comes in May, while Google, Expedia and Facebook have votes scheduled for June. Amazon is currently opposing the resolution at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The resolution for Microsoft is now being filed ahead of the company's December shareholder meeting, and Arjuna is in dialogue with Adobe as well.
These initiatives represent a roadmap to close the gender pay equity gap, which still causes women across the nation to earn an average of 78 cents for every dollar men earn.
The Business Side
Like other issues of diversity, Arjuna Capital argues achieving gender pay equity isn't only about social progress, but is also about helping the bottom line -- Arjuna is an investment firm, after all.
"Gender pay equity is good for technology companies," said Lamb, "it is good for workers, and it is good for shareholders. A commitment to gender pay equity is essential to driving innovation and performance in Silicon Valley and the rest of the tech world." Arjuna cites a McKinsey & Company study to back up its bottom line claim. The study found that companies with highly diverse executive teams tended to get over 10 percent higher returns on equity, over 91 percent higher earnings performance and 36 percent greater stock price growth.
McKinsey advocated eliminating gender pay gaps as one of the best practices to reach improved business performance. As does Arjuna.
"It is not simply a question of fairness," wrote Lamb. "It is a question of breaking down the structural bias that keeps women in the back seat and business from reaching its full potential."
"Soon we will see which companies join Intel and Apple as leaders and which end up tagged as laggards on paying women a fair wage," she added. "Now, the big question is: Can you be an Amazon, or an EBay, or a Google, or a Microsoft and be pegged as the last major tech company to take action on gender pay equity?"
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