#BoycottApple? Apple Shareholders Reject Diversity Proposal

Apple shareholders say nay to a proposed diversity strategy

Tim Cook WWDC
Apple CEO Tim Cook

In a somewhat surprising turn, Apple shareholders voted to reject a diversity proposal in its annual shareholder’s meeting.

The diversity proposal received 4.91% in favor and 95.09% against, meaning that it did not meet the 6% threshold needed to be resubmitted at next year’s meeting.

The proposal, put up by Apple shareholder Tony Maldonado, asked the board of directors to “adopt an accelerated recruitment policy” that would increase diversity across senior management and Apple’s board.

According to Mic.com, the statement on why the proposal was rejected is “Our ongoing efforts to increase diversity are much broader than the ‘accelerated recruitment policy’ requested by this proposal, which is focused only on Apple’s senior management and board.”

The statement goes on to outline other diversity initiatives that Apple is taking, including focusing on diversifying the talent pipeline.

However, the focus on the pipeline issue is a cop-out says many industry analysts. It’s always been a cop-out,” said Kalimah Priforce, who runs Oakland, California-based Qeyno Labs, which organizes hackathons targeted at minority youth, to NPR  “The pipeline has a bias. Their version of the pipeline is what’s creating the outcome that we see.”

African American students received more than 8% of bachelor’s degrees in science and engineering in 2012, virtually unchanged over a decade. Hispanic or Latino students received almost 10% of such degrees, rising steadily from about 7% in 2012.

Maldonado criticized the vote. “Apple successfully duped investors and the public into believing that diversity is not something that should be a priority,” he expressed in an emailed statement.

“As a shareholder, I’m disappointed because I know that Apple’s shocking lack of diversity leads to a weaker return on my investment.

As a father, I’m at loss of what to tell my child who prompted this whole endeavor by asking the simple question of why the most famous company on Earth is run by nearly all white men. The inconvenient truth is that this is utter bullsh*t and Apple should be ashamed of itself, choosing to remain inside the basket of deplorables.”

Pat Tomaino, associate director for Zevin Asset Management, was also disappointed by the vote.

“We’re at a critical juncture in the life of Apple—where it needs to pivot from the iPhone and the Mac to captivate consumers again. How can Apple be sure it knows its customers well enough to build the smartest web services and AI assistants when its executive ranks still don’t reflect the diversity of key markets?” he said via email.

“Right now, Apple could tie part of executive compensation to meeting diversity goals and strengthening its current approach—and that would send a strong signal to customers and potential employees that Apple wants to lead. Investors need to know that Apple wants to lead on diversity so it can attract top talent and know enough about our world to make the next iPhone, and we will keep challenging the company to get there.”

In a released statement, Michael Connor, executive director for Open MIC, wrote, “Today’s results serve as yet another reminder that while Apple may talk a big game on diversity, it still remains a bastion of white, male privilege. As an industry leader and one of the most iconic companies on the planet, Apple needs to play a pivotal role in making diversity a priority in the tech industry.

“We’re concerned that Apple’s lack of commitment to address this issue could allow larger more systemic problems to persist.

“Despite the vote, we will continue to work with shareholders across the tech industry to ensure that people of color hold positions of power to move companies  forward.”