Amazon report shows a disproportionately large number of its black and Hispanic employees in the United States work at its warehouses and in other low-skill jobs. Women also remain underrepresented at the highest levels of the company.

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When Amazon released its diversity data for the first time late last year, the numbers were startling: nearly a quarter of its U.S. workforce of 77,179 in 2014 was either black or Hispanic.

It was unusually high, relative to other tech companies. At Microsoft, for example, less than 9 percent of the staff are black or Hispanic.

Turns out, according to data quietly released by Amazon this spring, a disproportionately large number of Amazon’s black and Hispanic employees in the United States work at its warehouses and in other low-skill jobs. In fact, just 10 percent of Amazon’s staff holding executive or technical jobs are black or Hispanic. And in the executive and technical ranks, women are significantly underrepresented.

The more detailed data that segments employees by types of jobs — such as executives, professionals, administrative support and laborers — come from Amazon’s EEO-1 report. That’s an annual filing the company is required to submit to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, detailing the ethnicity of its workforce. But it’s not a public filing, and Amazon, like many companies, had declined to disclose it. In the last year, though, the Rev. Jesse Jackson has ratcheted up the pressure on the tech industry to release the data.

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Amazon spokesman Ty Rogers said the company posted a link to the data on its diversity website in May.

The EEO-1 data show that about 64 percent of the 35,658 workers holding executive, technical and administrative jobs at Amazon are white. Another 23 percent of those workers are Asian.

Those percentages change when it comes to the “laborers & helpers” category, where Amazon employs 41,521 workers. According to Amazon, most of those employees work at the company’s more than 50 warehouses in the United States. About 24 percent of those workers are black, and another 12 percent are Hispanic.

“Much of Amazon’s ‘diversity’ comes from (its) warehouses,” Lyle “Butch” Wing, the executive director of the Silicon Valley Project in Jackson’s Rainbow Push coalition, wrote in response to emailed questions. “Like Apple’s retail stores, Amazon’s warehouses give (it) a lift regarding the diversity head count.”


Amazon workplace diversity

According to a report Amazon filed with the U.S. mostly composed of its warehouse workers. (Kelly Shea / The Seattle Times)
According to a report Amazon filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Amazon has the greatest workplace diversity among “laborers,” a category that Amazon said is mostly composed of its warehouse workers. The technical and managerial staff that compose much of the rest of its U.S. workforce are predominantly white and Asian. Source: Amazon.com (Kelly Shea / The Seattle Times)

The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that 63.3 percent of the U.S. population was white in 2013, 16.6 percent was Hispanic, 12.2 percent was black and 4.8 percent was Asian.

Tech companies are often criticized for a lack of gender diversity, too. And women remain underrepresented at Amazon, particularly at the highest levels of the company. According to the EEO-1 data, of Amazon’s 110 executives and senior managers, 20 are women. In the next level down — the first and middle-manager category — about 21 percent of the 6,863 employees are women. And slightly less than 25 percent of the 18,266 workers described as “professionals” are woman. Amazon’s 10-member board of directors includes three women and no minorities.

At the same time, women comprise nearly 45 percent of Amazon’s “laborers & helpers.”

Amazon senior vice president and head of global corporate affairs Jay Carney acknowledged releasing the EEO-1 data at its annual meeting in June, and committed to updating it and working with Jackson to improve diversity.

“The issues that you raised are important, and they’re important to Amazon,” Carney told Jackson at the meeting. “We’re working very hard on diversity, increasing diversity both here at the company and in the broader tech industry, the broader challenge that you identify.”

the U.S. Opportunity Commission. (Kelly Shea / The Seattle Times)
Women comprise less than a fifth of Amazon’s top executives but nearly half of its “laborers,” largely warehouse workers, according to a report Amazon filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Source: Amazon.com (Kelly Shea / The Seattle Times)

Last week, the White House cited Amazon, among other companies, for setting goals to be more inclusive in its hiring, as part of an event to push for diversity in technology. In a fact sheet released for the event, the White House said that Amazon had committed to “ including diverse candidates on every executive hiring slate,” and that it had “invented a process for hiring entry-level software-development engineers that is skills-based to ensure the most objective selection process.”

Wing said that Amazon has agreed to meet “formally” with Jackson this fall. But he reserved judgment on whether Amazon is on a path toward improving its diversity hiring.

“We will engage them to get more information,” Wing said.

Rainbow Push has targeted tech companies in part because minorities and women have benefitted little from the financial windfalls that have defined the industry.

Amazon is hardly alone among tech-industry giants when it comes to lack of diversity in terms of color and gender of its workforce.

At Microsoft, for example, 116 of 144 executives are white; women hold only 18 executive posts. At Apple, 72 of 83 executives are white; women fill 15 of those executive positions. Unlike Amazon, neither Microsoft nor Apple categorizes as laborers on their EEO-1 reports.