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Apple Looks To Diversify Board Following Complaints

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Only one woman currently on the company’s eight-person board

Apple is facing pressure to bring extra diversity to its senior team following complaints from two of its shareholders over a lack of female executives.

Objections from Trillium Asset Management LLC and the Sustainability Group, who have met with Apple representatives several times in the past few months, have led Apple to edit its charter, and make a promise to diversify its board ahead of a shareholder meeting on 28 February, according to Bloomberg.

The two shareholders have said that they’re disappointed that the iPhone maker has only one woman, Avon chief executive Andrea Jung, on its eight-member board, and currently no female members of the executive team that reports to CEO Tim Cook – although Angela Ahrendts, the former head of fashion group Burberry, will take over Apple’s retail operation soon.

old_apple_logoRinging the changes

Having threatened to bring up the issue in the upcoming board meeting, the two shareholders have now backed down following Apple’s promise to consider women and minorities as board candidates in future, but without making any specific commitments.

“There is a general problem with diversity at the highest echelon of Apple,” said Jonas Kron, director of shareholder advocacy at Boston-based Trillium, which currently manages around $1.3 billion of funds. “It’s all white men.”

Apple is now adding the following language to its charter: “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.” The company also vowed to continue discussions with shareholders about ways to improve diversity, and will report back to investors on how it is making these changes later on in the year.

“There is a lot of room for improvement,” said Larisa Ruoff, who runs shareholder advocacy and corporate engagement for the Sustainability Group, which manages more than $1 billion. “We live in an increasingly complex global marketplace, and the companies that can hire, attract and retain women and people of colour are better equipped to capitalize on global opportunities and avoid missteps that may not be apparent to a more homogeneous group.”

“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 said. “Given its influence, it is particularly important for the company to be a strong leader in this area.”

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