By Albert Lin
Facing criticism from two major shareholders, Apple recently added language to its Nominating and Corporate Governance Committee Charter pledging to “actively” pursue women and members of underrepresented groups for its board of directors, according to a report on Bloomberg.com.
The exact language reads: “The Committee is committed to actively seeking out highly qualified women and individuals from minority groups to include in the pool from which Board nominees are chosen.”
Apple’s eight-member board includes just one woman—Andrea Jung, who is Asian and the only member of the board from an underrepresented group—alongside seven white men all over the age of 50. Additionally, all of the company’s top executives are white men over age 40. (Angela Ahrendts will become Apple’s top-ranking woman when she takes over as Senior Vice President of Retail and Online Stores sometime this spring.)
The new language came about as the result of objections from shareholders Trillium Asset Management and The Sustainability Group over the lack of diversity in Apple’s leadership ranks. Executives from Trillium and Sustainability had about five meetings with Apple’s investor-relations team and had threatened to bring the issue to a vote at a Feb. 28 shareholder meeting. They dropped their objections after Apple agreed to add the language—which had been in the company’s proxy for several years—to its charter, even though the company did not make any specific promises.
“There is a general problem with diversity at the highest echelon of Apple,” Jonas Kron, Director of Shareholder Advocacy at Trillium, told Bloomberg. “It’s all white men.”
Added Larisa Ruoff, who is in charge of Shareholder Advocacy & Corporate Engagement at The Sustainability Group: “This is an issue the company is taking seriously, and is discussed at the highest levels of the company.”
Apple has never participated in the DiversityInc Top 50 survey and was one of six companies that refused to release their EEO-1 data despite a Freedom of Information request from the San Jose Mercury News, saying that the information would cause “commercial harm.” As a result, the diversity of its workforce and its management is unknown. However, Google (another of the six companies) searches for Black, Latino and Asian Apple executives turn up nothing.