Shareholders Push Apple to Diversify Its Board and Leadership

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Like many Silicon Valley companies, Apple has faced criticism for a lack of female and minority leadership. Now, the company is vowing to diversify.

By Betsy Mikel (Contributing Writer, Women 2.0)

Apple shareholders Trillium Asset Management LLC and the Sustainability Group are not pleased, and stock price or profitability have nothing to do with it. The criticism comes from the lack of diversity on Apple’s board of directors and executive team.

Andrea Jung, the former CEO of Avon Products Inc. is the only female and minority on the 8-person board. Angela Ahrendts, who will become Apple’s SVP of Retail and Online Stores in 2014, will be Apple’s sole female executive.

According to Bloomberg, shareholders have been meeting with Apple representatives for the past few months and were prepared to raise the issue at a Feb. 28 shareholders meeting.

“There is a general problem with diversity at the highest echelon of Apple,” Jonas Kron told Bloomberg. The director of shareholder advocacy at Trillium continued, “It’s all white men.”

In response, Apple recently added language to its corporate charter that shows its commitment to diversifying its board: “The nominating committee is committed to actively seeking out highly qualified women and individuals from minority groups to include in the pool from which board nominees are chosen.” Apple also vowed to continue discussions with shareholders about how they can continue to increase diversity.

Another key player in advocating for change is the Sustainability Group’s Larisa Ruoff.

“I remain hopeful that over the next couple of years we will see a more diverse board that reflects the company’s customer base,” Ruoff told Bloomberg. “Given its influence, it is particularly important for the company to be a strong leader in this area.”

For one of the most valuable companies in the world, these baby steps toward a more diverse board can do more than keep shareholders happy. A new study conducted by University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business found that each additional female board director reduces the number of a company’s attempted takeover bids by 7.6%.

Plus, white males over 50 aren’t the only people who use Apple products. Adding more board members and leaders who represent Apple’s customer base will only contribute to the company’s success.

“You need to have people on your board knowledgeable in the different markets of where you’re competing and in the areas where you want to go,” Susan Stautberg, the co-founder of Women Corporate Directors, told Bloomberg.

Photo via aditza121/ Flickr.

Who do you think would be a good addition to Apple’s board?

BMikelPhotoSquareBetsy Mikel is a freelance copywriter and content strategist who helps brands, businesses and entrepreneurs tell their stories. A journalist at heart, her curiosity drives her to find something new to learn every single day. Follow her on Twitter at @betsym.