Apple faces new calls for greater racial diversity in its senior executive roles
Apple shareholders will make history next year if they decide that the company should be forced to increase the number of its non-white executives and directors.
A resolution submitted by an investor who lives in New York and London would require Apple to put more "people of colour" in such high-profile roles to increase diversity.
Apple told the Securities and Exchange Commission that it believes it doesn't have to include the proposal in its proxy materials, contending that it is an attempt to "micromanage" recruitment. The company also said that while it is trying to attract minorities, it "has no power to ensure that its recruits will accept offers."
While Apple is being pressured on its racial make-up, the company has demonstrated diversity elsewhere. CEO Tim Cook is openly gay and has come out in support of causes including marriage equality.
The proposal for an "accelerated recruitment policy" was submitted in September by Antonio Avian Maldonado, who owns 645 Apple shares. He said he had been spurred to act after looking at photos of the directors and his teenage son asked him why nearly everyone was white.
The board is "a little bit too vanilla," said Maldonado, the creative director for Insignia Entertainment, a music company. "I want to nudge them to move a little bit faster."
Diversity has been a hotly debated issue in Silicon Valley in recent years, with activists focusing on a dearth of minority and female engineers and executives in many of the biggest tech companies and hottest start-ups.
At Apple, six of the eight Apple directors are white. Andrea Jung is Asian-American and James Bell, an African American, joined the board in October.
Bell's appointment is one of the signs that "Apple is moving in the right direction," said Jesse Jackson, who lobbies the tech industry to increase minorities in its ranks.
"There's a lack of outreach," Jackson said, though it makes financial sense for Apple to "look like the marketplace for their products."
Last week, Twitter announced that it had hired Apple's global head of diversity, Jeffrey Siminoff, for a si milar position. That sparked criticism of the site, which has taken flack for its lack of diversity. Siminoff is a white male.
Shareholders in multinational firms have filed motions over the years asking that more women and non-whites be named to boards.