Apple Inc. (AAPL) Stays Under Pressure to Raise Diversity in Senior Ranks

Apple Cupertino headquarters

Is diversity taken into consideration when recruiting at Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)’s when you look at the board of directors? Guess not, since six of the eight Apple directors are pale-faced.

The US tech company has somewhat stepped back in 2015 registering a decline in the percentage of non-whites in top positions from the 2014 levels: blacks account for only a meagre 3%, down from 7%, Hispanics are at 6%, down from 11% and managers of Asian origins slid down to 15%, from 21%.

It feels like times are now ripe to capitalize on the 1960s revolutionary movements for freedom and social equality: there’s the need for diversity to finally be cultivated. There’s the need for more chocolate and less vanilla.

Over the years, many of the California-based firm’s shareholders have expressed discontentment around the scarce presence of women and non-whites amongst the top dogs. But none really made it through the board. Nor did – yet, at least – the most recent one submitted in September by Antonio Avian Maldonado II – who owns 645 Apple shares.

The resolution was straightforward, specifically asking Apple to put more “people of colour” in high-profile roles, in order to increase diversity.

The first reaction of the company to the legitimate request was to inform the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that it did not feel obliged to include the proposal in its proxy materials – documents in which a company informs its shareholders of its methods and procedures and solicits votes for corporate decisions –  contending it’s an attempt to “micromanage” recruitment.

The company also added that while it’s trying to “foster” diversity, “the company has no power to ensure that its recruits will accept offers.”

The SEC’s division of corporation finance stated in a letter sent last December that the agency didn’t agree with the company. Nevertheless, the final decision belongs to the tech company: to vote or not to vote on this matter at the 2016 annual meeting, which hasn’t been scheduled yet?

If Apple decides to skip the vote on this matter, this could bring an enforcement action by the SEC. The agency declined to comment on the possibility, and Apple didn’t respond to emails and phone calls.

If it’s of any consolation – it’s not! – Apple is not alone in this; diversity has been a hotly debated issue in Silicon Valley in recent years, with many activists battling to force tech giants to “variegate their plates”.