Amazon employees were outraged that its board of directors was all white. The company has finally changed that.
Starbucks executive Rosalind Brewer is the fourth female director on Amazon’s board.
Last spring, outraged Amazon employees pushed the company’s management to adopt a new policy to help bring more diversity to its board of directors.
Less than nine months later, Amazon has announced that it has named Starbuck COO Rosalind Brewer, who is African-American, to the 10-person group.
Brewer, the coffee chain’s No. 2 executive and the former CEO of Sam’s Club, joins a board that has up to now consisted of seven men and three women, all of whom were white. She’ll take the spot previously held by former Xerox chief scientist John Seely Brown.
The appointment comes as shareholder and activist groups, and some politicians, have intensified pressure on the tech giants to add more women and people of color to their management teams and boards of directors. Studies from organizations like McKinsey have argued that increased diversity among employee bases and boards results in business benefits.
Frustrated tech employees have also started to push for change inside tech behemoths like Amazon and Google. In May, Recode reported that a group of Amazon employees confronted management over the company’s recommendation to its board not to adopt a formal policy to add more women and people of color to its candidate pool for company directors. Amazon’s management team below CEO Jeff Bezos is also all white.
“We have a chance to be the FIRST to tackle this amongst top tech companies, but whenever diversity issues come up, we run from data and sprint towards overelaboration and buzzwords,” an Amazon employee wrote on an internal email thread at the time. “No one in a position of real authority here at Amazon is willing to be misunderstood for long periods of time on diversity.”
Less than a week after Recode’s story ran, Amazon reversed course and said it was adopting the formal policy for evaluating board members that it claimed was already in place and in practice.
In the wake of Brewer’s appointment, politicians are already highlighting it as a hopeful turning point.
“It is my hope that this barrier-breaking appointment serves as an example to other industry leaders regarding the positive economic, business, innovation and inclusion benefits offered by increasing board diversity, especially to companies leading the way in our modern innovation economy,” said Rep. Robin Kelly of Illinois and co-chair of the House Tech Accountability Caucus, in a statement.