Apple’s Diversity Distraction

Alice Truong, Quartz:

[…] ahead of a shareholder meeting in February, Apple’s board of directors is recommending that investors vote against a proposal to increase the diversity of its board and senior management. […]

The proposal by investor Antonio Avian Maldonado II criticizes Apple for being “painstaking slow” to increase representation of minorities in its leadership and board.

The proposal reads (PDF), in part:

Shareholders opined that companies with holistic comprehensive diversity policies and programs, and strong leadership commitment to implementation, enhance their long-term value; reducing the Company’s potential legal and reputational risks associated with workplace discrimination and build reputations as a fair employer. Equally, shareholders opined that the varied perspectives of a diverse senior management and board of directors would provide a competitive advantage in terms of creativity, innovation, productivity and morale, while eliminating the limitations of “groupthink”, as it would recognize the uniqueness of experience, strength, culture and thought contributed by each; strengthening its reputation and accountability to shareholders.

Therefore, shareholders ask the Company to assist investors in evaluating the company’s effectiveness in meeting its commitment to equal opportunity and diversity in senior management and board of directors, in any meaningful way that would not cause the company to breach the assurances of confidentiality and privacy that it has made to its employees.

Apple’s response, from the same document, is:

This proposal would require the Board to adopt an accelerated recruitment policy for increasing diversity among senior management and the Board. We believe that the proposal is unduly burdensome and not necessary because Apple has demonstrated to shareholders its commitment to inclusion and diversity, which are core values for our company.

Jason Snell:

Apple’s “ongoing efforts” are funding college scholarships at historically black college and universities, providing technology to underserved schools, and sponsoring other pro-diversity events. […]

[…] writing checks to good causes won’t change the composition of Apple’s board and senior management — only action will.

Apple’s board and executive staff are, indeed, changing for the better. In July 2011, for example, there was only a singular nonwhite, non-male person — Andrea Jung of Avon — among their board and executive team. One wishes that it would improve faster, and that’s what this shareholder proposal encourages. Steps have been made, but the proposal seeks to understand the effectiveness of those steps, and throwing money at the problem isn’t entirely enough. Neither, for what it’s worth, is changing the homepage.