Apple Holders Push Company to Put More Minorities in Top Ranks

  • Investors seek to speed recruiting of blacks and Hispanics
  • Company opposes proposal, citing programs already under way

Shareholders of Apple Inc. will again be asked to vote on a proposal urging the company to recruit more diverse executives and board members at its annual meeting later this month.

Zevin Asset Management, a Boston-based socially responsible investing firm with about $600 million under management, and Tony Maldonado, an individual investor, jointly filed the measure, which said Apple’s board and senior management "fail to adequately represent diversity and inclusion (particularly Hispanic, African American, Native American and other people of color)."

Apple’s eight-person board has two women and one black man, while five out of Apple’s top 107 executives are black, African American, Latino or Hispanic, according to a filing with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Apple recommended that shareholders vote against the proposal, citing diversity initiatives the company is already taking.

"Our hiring trends over the last three years show steady progress in attracting more women and under-represented minorities," the company said in its proxy filing.

Apple’s leadership "is dominated by white male executives," said Pat Miguel Tomaino, associate director of socially responsible investing at Zevin. The company should better reflect its "diverse customer base."

Last year, Maldonado filed a similar proposal, which was the first to focus solely on the race of a company’s leadership. It got 5.1 percent of shareholder votes. Maldonado said he started thinking about the issue when his teenage son asked him why Apple’s board was almost all white.

Many big Silicon Valley companies are under pressure to embrace diversity, but they have so far mostly struggled to make significant progress. Facebook Inc.’s efforts have been hampered by a multi-layered hiring process that gives a small committee of high-ranking engineers veto power over promising candidates, frustrating recruiters and hindering progress on diversity goals.

Last month, the Rev. Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow PUSH Coalition asked the closely held ride-sharing service Uber Technologies Inc. to disclose the racial and gender composition of its board and leadership teams.

​"​We appreciate the attention and focus Rev. Jackson brings to these issues and look forward to continuing our discussions with the Rainbow PUSH Coalition," an Uber spokeswoman said.

Uber recently hired Bernard Coleman, the chief diversity officer for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, to oversee its diversity efforts.

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