Amazon adopts new policy to promote board diversity

The internet retailer is adopting an NFL-like "Rooney rule."

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Amazon's board of directors has adopted a new policy to increase diversity in its ranks.

Ben Fox Rubin/CNET

Amazon said Monday it's adopting a new policy to promote diversity in its board of directors membership, agreeing with a shareholder proposal it had initially opposed.

"The Amazon Board of Directors has adopted a policy that the Nominating and Corporate Governance Committee include a slate of diverse candidates, including women and minorities, for all director openings," Amazon said in a filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

The new policy comes as Silicon Valley companies grapple with how to increase workforce diversity in an industry dominated by white men and permeated with corporate cultures that seem biased against women and female engineers. Google, Facebook, Microsoft and other tech companies now regularly release diversity reports, highlighting low percentages of women and minority employees, with few moving up the management chain.

Amazon's board has 10 members, all of whom are white, including three women. The Congressional Black Caucus criticized the company's board for urging shareholders to vote against a proposal to institute a "Rooney rule," an NFL edict that requires teams to interview minorities for coaching or top executive positions.

Amazon said in its filing that the new policy "formalizes a practice already in place," although it wasn't clear why the company's board initially opposed the proposal. Amazon's VP of public policy Brian Huseman sought to clarify the company's position in a letter to the Congressional Black Caucus.

"We reached this decision after listening to your feedback as well as that from Amazon employees, shareholders, and other stakeholders about the Board diversity proposal," he said. "These conversations led us to reconsider both our decision on the shareholder proposal and how we explained our initial recommendation."

Amazon didn't immediately respond to a request for additional comment.

Recode first reported the development.

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