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Apple's Plan to Improve Its Diversity

The tech giant amends its charter, pledging to "actively" seek out women and members of underrepresented groups for its board.

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.

The Conversation

Apple's Head of Diversity Apologizes for Saying '12 White, Blue-Eyed Blond Men in a Room' Are Diverse

Denise Young Smith said she gets frustrated when the term diversity is only "tagged to the people of color, or the women, or the LGBT."

Denise Young Smith

As the representation of Blacks, Latinos and women in Silicon Valley continues to move at a snail's pace, Denise Young Smith, Apple's vice president of inclusion and diversity, offered that "12 white, blue-eyed, blond men in a room" equates to diversity.

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Apple's Leaders 'Presently Fail' to Represent Diversity: Shareholders

The tech giant has opposed a more diverse hiring strategy for senior management roles and its board of directors.

Apple CEO Tim Cook / REUTERS

Apple's shareholders this month will vote to try and increase diversity within management, a proposal being pushed by its major investors. Despite conclusive data showing that diversity in management is critical for a company's performance, Apple's management says the proposed policy is "not necessary."

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Editorial: FBI Director Blows It in Race Speech

FBI Director James Comey gave an unprecedented speech on racial profiling and tensions amongst law enforcement, but then seemingly excused it all.

Originally published Feb. 17, 2015

In an unprecedented move, FBI Director James Comey addressed a crowd at Georgetown University on the racial tensions and culture of racial profiling amongst the law-enforcement community.

But that's where Comey made his mistake: He never acknowledged racial profiling as a cultural issue.

Instead of directly approaching the issues, Comey seemed to make excuses for them. Instead of admitting that racial profiling—and, more importantly, what lies behind it—is a cultural issue, he chose to quote a Broadway musical (Avenue Q) and note that "everyone's a little bit racist."

"I worry that this incredibly important and difficult conversation about race and policing has become focused entirely on the nature and character of law-enforcement officers when it should also be about something much harder to discuss," Comey said. "Debating the nature of policing is very important but I worry that it has become an excuse at times to avoid doing something harder."

But then he began to provide the excuses.

  • "Police officers on patrol in our nation's cities often work in environments where a hugely disproportionate percentage of street crime is committed by young men of color. Something happens to people of good will working in that environment";
  • "The two young Black men on one side of the street look like so many others the officer has locked up. Two young white men on the other side of the street, even in the same clothes, do not. The officer does not make the same sinister association about the two white guys, whether that officer is white or black";
  • :A tragedy of American life—one that most citizens are able to drive around because it doesn't touch them—is that young people in 'those neighborhoods' too often inherit from that dysfunction a legacy of crime and prison. And with that inheritance, they become part of a police officer's life, and shape the way that officer—whether white or Black—sees the world."

And this is where Comey's excuses begin to ignore the underlying cultural problems that lead to the rampant racial profiling that he sorta-kinda admits exists.

America is segregated. It is. In nearly every major city, the population is segregated.

Even in Ferguson, the police station is located in a wealthier, mostly white neighborhood. Michael Brown was shot to death—and police presence was almost nonexistent on the night Darren Wilson's lack of indictment was announced—in an almost entirely Black neighborhood.

In many cities, that police officer walking down the street won't see two Black guys on one side and two white guys on the other.

As a result, crime is segregated. Yes, somewhere in the neighborhood of 90 percent of the Black Americans who are murdered are killed by other Blacks.

And 83 percent of white murder victims are killed by other whites.

But somehow, on that mysterious street where segregation doesn't exist, the officer only sees the two Black men as resembling criminals the officer has arrested before.

Maybe it's because policing policy in his city unfairly targets Blacks and Latinos, e.g., Stop and Frisk (which has been declared unconstitutional) or Broken Windows policing in New York City.

Or maybe it's because almost every coworker this officer sees on a daily basis is white.

The U.S. Census Bureau has demographic data on police officers in 755 cities nationwide. In three-quarters of them, the percentage of white police officers is higher than the percentage of whites living in the city.

In 23 cities, the percentage of white police officers is three times the percentage of whites in the community.

In 29 cities, there are FIVE times as many.

So, yes, Comey was right in sorta-kinda acknowledging—something the FBI doesn't do very often—that there are racial disparities and issues that need to be addressed.

He just chose to address the symptoms instead of the cause.

Clorox 'Apologizes' for Tweet About Diverse Emojis

Clorox 'Apologizes' for Tweet About Diverse Emojis

By CEO of DiversityInc Luke Visconti and Sheryl Estrada

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Walmart Helps Convince Arkansas Gov. to Wait on Anti-LGBT Bill

Walmart's powerful voice weighed in its home state against the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, helping to push the governor to send the bill back to the legislature.

Update (4/2/2015 4:36 p.m.): The Associated Press is reporting that the Arkansas legislature passed a revised religious objections bill after Gov. Asa Hutchinson declined to sign the previous version. The new bill "prohibits state and local government from infringing on someone's religious beliefs without proving a compelling interest. The legislation now heads to Hutchinson, and his office says he plans to sign it into law."

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Should Your Company Do Business in Indiana After 'Religious Freedom Law'?

The corporate, political and social backlash against Indiana's new 'Religious Freedom Law' is escalating. The fight against the law, which allows LGBT discrimination, is led by Diversityinc Top 50 companies Eli Lilly and Company and Cummins

On March 28, opponents of Indiana Senate Bill 101, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, rallied at the Indiana State House.

Update (3/30/2015 4:35 pm): The business coalition of CumminsEli Lilly and Company and other companies have sent letters to the Indiana legislature asking for new legislation to make certain that the neither the RFRA or any other Indiana law "can be used to justify discrimination based upon sexual orientation or gender identity.

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Luke Visconti, CEO: Starbucks CEO Needs to Start Discussion About Race With His Leadership Team, Not Minimum-Wage Employees and Customers

This is nothing but a cheap publicity stunt. Schultz is a multibillionaire, yet he has not been involved in a constructive way in the discussion of race until now.

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz got into the news this week by encouraging his baristas to spark conversations on race with customers by writing the words "Race Together" on customers' coffee cups. He did this in partnership with USA Today, which published an eight-page "supplement and conversation guide."

Both companies should start a discussion about race and gender in their own boardrooms. Here's a link to Starbucks' executive page—it's astoundingly white and male: 84 percent male, 79 percent white. Two Black people, two Asians. Apparently, no Latinos. (Who is growing your coffee, Starbucks?) Here's a link to USA Today's executive page—it's ALL white men.

The area on USA Today's website about this venture even includes Schultz being interviewed by a white reporter—the irony of two white men discussing race and of Schultz talking about corporate responsibility is apparently lost on both. Leadership at both companies is so astoundingly tone deaf that they couldn't even see how ridiculous this all looks.

In my opinion, it's a cheap publicity stunt. Schultz is a multibillionaire, yet I can find no links to where he's been involved in a constructive way in the discussion of race until now. And by constructive, I mean putting your money where your mouth is. Here's his (pathetic) community involvement info. I've been a trustee of a Historically Black College for 10 years, I'm a member of HACU's Corporate and Philanthropy Council, I'm on the board of the National Organization on Disability, and I'm chair of the board of a Hispanic Serving Institution's foundation. I've been involved with Rainbow PUSH. In over 15 years of intense community service, I've never seen a Starbucks sponsorship or scholarship. Starbucks has been conspicuously stingy—which is fine if you want to live that way, but please don't leverage your economic clout to talk about things with authority that you have no involvement with outside of your imagination.

While Schultz is discussing corporate responsibility, he should address his company's impact on impoverished coffee growers worldwide: His coffee is not fair trade.

Like many companies that want to leverage diversity monetarily, there's nothing of substance on the Starbucks website regarding diversity, philanthropy or fair-trade coffee. There's a lot of lofty language, a lot of positioning, very little facts and figures—no discussion of money in a relative sense to market impact, revenue or wealth.

The good news is that the negative backlash has already whipped into hurricane proportions. Corey duBrowa (a white man), Starbucks' Senior Vice President of Global Communications, deleted his Twitter account after an avalanche of negative tweets. But Starbucks isn't backing off; this discussion is heading into the company's shareholders meeting, where I hope the board of directors asks the hard questions presented in this column.

Schultz said, "We at Starbucks should be willing to talk about these issues in America. Not to point fingers or to place blame, and not because we have answers, but because staying silent is not who we are."

I think he should point fingers—at himself. Until his executive team looks substantially more like the minimum-wage workers we taxpayers have to subsidize, the discussion of race should be internal and intense. How did his executive team wind up looking like it does? When is it going to change? Who is going to be held accountable? Do we have the chops to talk about race when we have done nothing about it? Should we be selling coffee on the back of this subject?

Cleaning House: Ferguson Police Chief to Resign

Chief Thomas Jackson is the latest high-profile name from the DOJ's Ferguson report to resign his position.

Update (3/11/2015 7:20 p.m.): Police Chief Thomas Jackson will resign from the Ferguson Police Department effective March 19. He is to receive a year's salary, close to $100,000, and health insurance as severance.

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