Amazon published Wednesday the most detailed look yet at its workforce demographic data, showing what many critics of the company have long suspected: Black, Latino and female employees are underrepresented in the best-paid jobs at Amazon.
The only segment where the number of women reflects countrywide demographics is among the company’s nearly 850,000 U.S. employees working lower-paid jobs, including in warehouses. Black and Latino workers are overrepresented in that slice of Amazon employees.
Amazon released the data as it announced wide-ranging workforce diversity goals for the next year. The company plans to increase its representation of Black employees and women among its corporate workforce, including by doubling the number of Black executives and hiring 30% more women for senior technology roles. Amazon also plans to hire 30% more Black employees to work as product managers, engineers, designers and in other corporate roles.
Amazon will begin inspecting data on retention and performance ratings by race, gender and ethnicity to “identify root causes” of any disparities and “as necessary, implement action plans” to ensure that the company retains employees at statistically similar rates across all demographics, Amazon’s head of human resources, Beth Galetti, wrote in a blog post. All employees will be required to take inclusion training, and Amazon will begin rooting out racially insensitive terms in its code base, Galetti added. Other companies have recently taken similar steps to change programming terms like “master” and “slave” that recall racist history.
“This is some of the most important work we have ever done, and we are committed to building a more inclusive and diverse Amazon for the long term,” Galetti said in the blog post. “I am grateful to the many employees who continue to share their experiences with me and other senior leaders. Tough feedback is always uncomfortable to hear, but their stories remind us that we have more work to do to achieve our goals.”
Many tech companies have struggled to become appreciably more diverse, even as they’ve become more open about releasing workforce demographic data. Industry giants like Google, Microsoft and Facebook have been reporting on their efforts to increase workforce diversity for years, but their most recent data still paints a picture of a sector in which the best-paying technical and leadership roles are dominated by white and Asian men.
Amazon began publishing limited data about its workforce demographics in 2014. Its release of more detailed data comes amid mounting criticism that the company has not done enough to give high-paid employment and promotion opportunities to women and people of color.
Black employees in Amazon’s corporate offices have said they’re paid less and promoted less rapidly than their white peers, a recent Vox investigation found. Charlotte Newman, a Black Amazon Web Services (AWS) employee, last month sued Amazon over alleged racial and gender discrimination, saying the tech giant gave her a job title and a salary out of step with the higher-level work she actually performed.
Employee activists have submitted shareholder proposals every year since 2019 asking Amazon to release more detailed data on pay gaps and promotion velocity by gender and race. Amazon has sought to keep many of those proposals from reaching a shareholder vote.
Amazon agreed last year to release more detailed diversity metrics after New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer threatened to oppose Amazon’s candidates for board of directors at the company’s 2021 shareholder meeting if the company did not disclose the information.
“It is not enough to condemn racism in words; systemic change in corporate America will require concrete action and accountability,” Stringer said at the time. “We’re asking companies that issued statements in support of racial justice to walk the walk and publicly disclose the demographics of their employees by race, gender, and ethnicity — including in their leadership and senior management.”
Amazon will publish that data when it files workforce demographic documents later this month with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. An Amazon spokesperson said Wednesday’s release of data was unconnected to the agreement with Stringer.
The recent union campaign at Amazon’s Bessemer, Alabama, fulfillment center, where nearly 80% of workers are Black, also highlighted issues of racial equity in Amazon’s workforce. Though the union drive was unsuccessful, its call for higher pay and less repetitive work for Amazon’s warehouse employees struck a chord with politicians and seems likely to continue at Amazon facilities beyond Bessemer.
Last year, Black workers made up 31% of Amazon’s lowest-paid U.S. employees, which include warehouse and call-center workers, while Latino workers comprised 26.4%, the data shows. About half of Amazon’s lowest-paid workers are women — a higher percentage than in any other segment of the company.
Roughly 13% of U.S. residents identify as Black, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates, while 18% identify as Hispanic or Latino and 6% identify as Asian. Sixty percent of U.S. residents say they’re white. There are roughly equal numbers of women and men in the country.
Among Amazon’s entry-level and midlevel corporate workers, women were 31% of the workforce last year, while Black and Latino workers each made up roughly 7% of the workforce. Asian employees comprised roughly 35% of those corporate employees, while white workers made up 47%.
Diversity figures are most skewed among Amazon executives. Just 22% of Amazon executives globally are women. Seventy-one percent of Amazon executives in the U.S. are white, 20% are Asian, and a combined 8% identify as Black or Latino.
The pay gap between Amazon warehouse workers and employees in its corporate offices can be stark. Warehouse wages start at $15 an hour, and in 2019, the typical worker earned $36,640 a year, the company said. Corporate employees’ average base pay is $150,000, Amazon revealed in its 2018 HQ2 prospectus, but compensation packages often include lucrative stock options that can make up the majority of an office worker’s total earnings.
Former AWS diversity lead Chanin Kelly-Rae, who resigned last year over what she said was Amazon’s reluctance to devote serious attention to hiring and retaining a diverse workforce, said the new data “showed what I thought they’d show” — and hid what she thought Amazon would hide.
Amazon should have published numbers of employees in its breakdown, in addition to characterizing the data in percentages, she said. She also would have liked to have seen more disaggregation by job type, she said, to track demographic disparities between tech and non-tech roles in Amazon’s corporate offices.
“If the number [of Black executives] they’re doubling is only three, then it doesn’t feel like they’re doing some grand and fantastic thing,” Kelly-Rae said. “If you want to promise true transparency and accountability, let people know what those numbers are.”
An Amazon spokesperson declined to share those figures.