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Apple investor's shareholder proposal could force racial diversity among leadership

Apple might be forced to add "people of color" to its senior ranks if an investor submitted resolution is voted through at an upcoming 2016 shareholders meeting, though the company contends the proposal constitutes micromanagement and is therefore invalid.




According to Bloomberg, investor Antonio Avian Maldonado II, a businessman who owns 645 Apple shares, was in September compelled to submit a proposal for an "accelerated recruitment policy" by his teenage son, who after browsing through pictures of the company's directors asked why most were white.

Apple's board is "a little bit too vanilla," Maldonado told Bloomberg. "I want to nudge them to move a little bit faster."

Apple told the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that it is actively attempting to hire minorities, but in the end "has no power to ensure that its recruits will accept offers." The proposal is an attempt to micromanage Apple's recruiting efforts and should therefore not be put to shareholder vote, the company said.

In a letter dated Dec. 11, the SEC said it disagrees, but noted the choice to include Maldonado's proposal in the company's annual shareholders meeting is ultimately up to Apple. Excluding the submittal could result in regulatory action.

For its part, Apple is making an effort to create a more racially diverse workplace. According to the company's diversity report, the percentage of non-white employees has risen since 2014, with Asians and blacks seeing slight increases in representation.

The Bloomberg report incorrectly states Apple's website shows a decline in blacks and Hispanics in leadership roles. An interactive graph contains employment data current as of June, with gender, race and ethnicity distribution broken down by tech, non-tech, leadership, retail and retail leadership roles. That level of granularity is not provided for 2014, but can be gleaned from the provided 2014 EEO-1 report (PDF link), which reveals a positive one-percent change for Hispanics in top positions. There was no notable change, positive or negative, for other minorities in Apple's upper echelons.

Workplace diversity is a critical issue not only for Apple, but for the entire high tech industry. More recently, it was reported this week that Twitter hired away Apple's head of diversity, Jeffrey Siminoff. It is unclear who will fill the now vacant position.