By Victor Ochieng
Tech giant Apple has been touting its commitment to promoting diversity in both its management and the general workforce. However, it’s now becoming clear that its shareholders aren’t keen on that, at least for now.
On Tuesday of last week, the company’s investors overwhelmingly voted against a proposal that sought to accelerate the company’s efforts to add more African Americans, Latinos and other people of color to its board of directors and senior managerial positions. Just like in several tech companies, minority communities remain underrepresented at Apple, considering the country’s demographics.
That was the second consecutive year that Apple shareholders voted against the proposal, a proposal that called for an “accelerated recruitment policy” towards ensuring diversity in its leadership positions. The proposal received less than 6% support, which, according to supporters, means Apple can deny it a place in its proxy ballot in 2018.
“Apple successfully duped investors and the public into believing that diversity is not something that should be a priority,” said Tony Maldonado, the Apple investor who submitted the proposal. “As a shareholder, I’m disappointed because I know that Apple’s shocking lack of diversity leads to a weaker return on my investment.”
Pat Tomaino, an associate director at Zevin Asset Management, a company that co-sponsored the proposal added, “We’re at a critical juncture in the life of Apple — where it needs to pivot from the iPhone and the Mac to captivate consumers again. How can Apple be sure it knows its customers well enough to build the smartest web services and AI assistants when its executive ranks still don’t reflect the diversity of key markets?”
Zevin and Maldonado were evidently unhappy with the fact that shareholders representing a whopping 95.09% of shares voted against the proposal.
There was no immediate comment from Apple representatives on the development. However, in their proxy statement to shareholders back in January, the company specifically asked shareholders not to vote for the proposal, saying they’re already diversifying their workforce. Apple added that they were also involved in training both women and other minority groups for tech jobs.
“The ‘accelerated recruiting policy’ called for by this proposal is not necessary or appropriate because we have already demonstrated our commitment to a holistic view of inclusion and diversity,” the company said in its proxy statement.
On why shareholders rejected the proposal last year, Apple explained that it was because shareholders were happy with the work they were already doing to promote diversity.
“We believe that the low level of support for this proposal last year reflects the positive recognition by our shareholders of Apple’s significant commitment to inclusion and diversity,” the company said.
In truth, that may not be the reason why shareholders rejected the proposal.