Amazon's board of directors has adopted a "Rooney Rule" policy requiring it to consider a diverse pool of candidates for future board vacancies. The company last month had indicated it opposed such a measure, triggering a blowback from the shareholder group that raised the proposal, as well as employees and members of Congress.
Amazon’s board on Monday said it had adopted a rule requiring directors to consider a diverse slate of candidates for future openings on the retailer’s governing council, reversing course in the face of opposition from shareholder groups and some members of Congress.
The retailer’s board of directors last month had urged shareholders to vote against a shareholder proposal that would mandate considering qualified women and members of racial minorities as candidates.
“Amazon’s commitment to diversity is reflected in our existing director recruitment and evaluation process,” the board had said in April, adding that its process already included an evaluation of various measures of diversity. “We are strongly committed to providing equal opportunity; and we are proud of our diverse Board.”
All of Amazon’s 10 board members are white. Three are women.
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Some employees voiced displeasure with the company’s response, according to emails obtained by Recode. One asked why the company was suggesting it was satisfied with its current procedures.
“[How] is it successful, if we aren’t diverse at all, and notably last amongst top tech companies,” wrote the employee, who Recode did not name. “Please provide your measures for success.”
Amazon has also been criticized, from inside and outside the company, for a dearth of women and people of color in its upper echelons. About 74 percent of Amazon’s executive ranks are white males, a higher portion than fellow technology giants such as Apple, Google, Facebook and Microsoft, according to data each company filed with regulators in 2016.
Members of the Congressional Black Caucus and Congressional Hispanic Caucus wrote Amazon letters urging the company to enact the shareholder-proposed Rooney Rule, a reference to a National Football League policy requiring teams to interview ethnic-minority candidates for senior coaching roles.
Amazon on Monday took that step, filing papers with regulators amending the company’s board nominating guidelines to “include a diverse slate of candidates, including women and minorities, for all director openings.” That, the company said, formalized a practice already in place.
Brian Huseman, Amazon’s vice president of public policy, elaborated in a letter to members of Congress who had contacted the company.
“We reached this decision after listening to your feedback as well as that from Amazon employees, shareholders, and other stakeholders about the Board diversity proposal,” he said. “These conversations led us to reconsider both our decision on the shareholder proposal and how we explained our initial recommendation.”