Apple shareholders have overwhelmingly rejected a proposal that would require the board of America’s largest company to adopt an “accelerated recruitment policy” for minorities among company leaders.
The result offered a fresh reminder how Silicon Valley, a meritocracy dominated by white men, is having a tricky time navigating identity politics and modern attitudes towards diversity. The proposal, which wasn’t expected to pass, failed 94.9% to 5.1%, according to an early tally announced at Apple’s annual shareholder meeting at company headquarters in Cupertino, California.
Apple’s board had urged investors to vote it down, telling shareholders that the measure would be too restrictive. Speaking afterward, chief executive Tim Cook said: “There’s much more work to do on diversity across the company. I can commit to you we are working very hard on it.”
Of Apple’s 18 named executives on its website, Cook is one of the 15 that are both white and male. There are then three women, two of whom are black. Apple’s eight-member board includes two women and one black man, James Bell, the former Boeing chief financial officer.
The measure was being pushed by civil rights groups, with the Rev Jesse Jackson attending to push for support just before Apple announced the result of the vote.
“Ironically, Apple is already moving in this direction,” Jackson told shareholders. “The world is diverse … We should not position ourselves to react to inclusion, which leads to growth.”
Until recently Apple had a director of “worldwide inclusion and diversity”, Jeffrey Siminoff, but he was poached by Twitter in December 2015. Apple would not say whether it has replaced him.