After Opposing Board Diversity, Amazon Says It Will Fix It Following Employee Outrage

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Written by Ann Brown

Amazon has reversed a previous board decision and now says it will adopt a “Rooney Rule” to boost diversity on its board. The previous decision against the adaption of the policy had been met with employee outrage and backlash from the Congressional Black Caucus, which recently toured the Amazon headquarters as part of its annual review of tech companies and diversity.

The Congress members were not impressed with Amazon’s lack of diversity, especially on its board and in the executive ranks.

“Our astonishment is compounded when you consider the fact that your ‘customer-centric’ company — with over 300 million active users — has zero people of color on your 10-person Board of Directors,” the lawmakers wrote.

Congresswoman Maxine Waters of California was so infuriated that she now-famously said, “I’m about to hit someone over the head with a hammer.”

Employees circulated an internal email protesting low wages and the lack of upward mobility for women and people of color in the company. The email leaked to the press.

The company stressed in a statement that it is merely formalizing a practice that was already in place.

“The company’s new policy pledging to consider ‘a slate of diverse candidates, including women and minorities’ for future openings on its board of directors is being called a key moment in the quest to increase diversity on corporate boards,” Geekwire reported.

Under Amazon’s new policy, women and people of color will be included in the pool of candidates for all board openings.

“The Amazon Board of Directors has adopted a policy that the Nominating and Corporate Governance Committee include a slate of diverse candidates, including women and minorities, for all director openings,” the company said in an SEC filing. “This policy formalizes a practice already in place.”

The Rooney Rule was first adopted in the National Football League. Under the rule, all NFL teams must interview at least one person of color each time a head coaching or general manager role is available.

Despite all the talk about increasing diversity in tech, not much movement has been made on corporate boards.

“Amazon’s 10 board members are all white; three of the 10 are women,” Recode reported.

Amazon informed the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) of the newly instated policy. In a letter to the CBC, Amazon’s VP of public policy Brian Huseman wrote:
“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. These conversations led us to reconsider both our decision on the shareholder proposal and how we explained our initial recommendation.”

 

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