The President's new restriction on travel brought protests to airports and clarity to boardrooms.
Turns out investors are starting to make a business case for diversity.
“A more racially diverse tech sector would translate into stronger financial performances for companies,” says Michael Connor, the executive director of Open MIC, a foundation-supported nonprofit that works with shareholders to encourage more sustainable practices at publicly traded companies. Lately, Connor has been working the phones, talking with Apple investors in advance of the company’s annual shareholder meeting on Feb. 28 looking to get them to persuade the company to commit to a plan to hire more executives of color. “This is a critical time,” he says. “We’re reaching out to the company, too.”
And he’s got charts and graphs to back him up. Open MIC has just published a new report called Breaking the Mold, which looks at the lack of racial diversity in the tech industry. It’s a lengthy, readable and well-reported compilation of the best available research, studies, and practices that speak to race and inclusion in tech and beyond. There are four major recommendations everyone should consider:
- Collecting and publicly disclosing more detailed industry data on demographics (including aggregated gender and race statistics);
- Developing and publicly disclosing time-bound goals, with built-in accountability mechanisms;
- Linking employee compensation and incentives to the achievement of goals, especially for senior leadership staff; and
- Engaging white executives to make change.
Engaging executives has become Connor’s life’s work. He founded Open MIC nearly 10 years ago. In his earlier life, he was a journalist with the Wall Street Journal, ABC, and others, who discovered he had both an interest in transforming corporate behavior and important contacts in the socially responsible investing field. Over time, Open MIC has become a small but quiet force helping investors and shareholders — from massive institutional money managers and pension funds to individuals — ask publicly traded companies to do better. “We started with a range of issues, like online privacy, network neutrality, and broadband access to the internet, before we began addressing diversity,” Connor told raceAhead. “Our strength is setting the table for a discussion about policy.”
For his Apple quest, Connor has teamed up with Tony Maldonado, a funny and feisty Apple shareholder, who figured out on his own that he had every right to get the company to consider his ideas on how to make their business better.
“People don’t realize that you only have to have $2,000 worth of company stock to make a proposal,” Maldonado says, referring to the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission’s rule 14a-8, that says shareholders are allowed to submit a proposal if they own at least $2,000 in stock (or 1% of the company) for a full year before the proposal is submitted. “I talked to some people, did my research and figured it out.”
Maldonado, who owns at least 645 shares of Apple stock, is a creative director in the music business, a New Yorker now based mostly in London. He noticed the company’s lack of diversity, specifically in their executive ranks, when he and his son were looking at the company’s website, plotting his future education and career strategy. “He said to me, ‘it’s just so vanilla, there’s not a single person of color on the leadership page,’” Maldonado says. “I thought it was odd. You go into an Apple store and it’s like walking into the U.N.” Maldonado calls himself a conservative realist and insists that this is a business thing, not a liberal thing. “The company can’t go into markets like India without diverse ideas,” he says by way of example. “Leadership on that has to trickle down from the top.”
In 2015, Maldonado submitted his first proposal asking the company to institute an accelerated strategy to place more people of color in high-ranking positions, the first shareholder letter to come with a specific recruitment demand. He also asked Apple CEO Tim Cook about diversity at their annual meeting. His proposal got 5.1 % of the shareholder vote, enough to allow him to re-submit again. You can read the proposal here.
Both Connor and Maldonado are hopeful that this year’s meeting will bring meaningful movement to the issue. But either way, says Connor, talking is good. “It shines a spotlight both outside and inside Apple,” he says. And although his focus is on shareholders, everyone matters. “Oftentimes it empowers people inside a company, people who agree with us,” he says.
We reached out to Apple for comment but did not receive a response.
|Nordstrom escapes the Trump-tweet backlash effect|
|After Nordstrom decided to drop Ivanka Trump’s brand from its stores, the president blasted them from his personal Twitter account, then retweeted his original tweet from the POTUS account. But unlike other companies, like Lockheed Martin and Toyota, Nordstrom’s share price did not take a dip. Instead, it ended the day up more than 4%. If the president can’t move markets by tweeting, will his Twitter rants still be effective?|
|Twitter announces new features to help curb abuse|
|Persistent abuse has been a terrible problem on the social network, and users hope that this latest announcement, specifically targeted at repeat offenders, will bear fruit. One area the company plans to target are trolls who make new accounts specifically to harass people who have blocked them. Another change coming down the line involves removing violent material or tweets from previously muted users out of typical searches. The company did not announce a timeline for the changes.|
|Jeff Sessions confirmed as U.S. Attorney General|
|The bitter fight ended with the procedural hushing of Senator Elizabeth Warren and capped a confirmation season that dredged up racial ghosts from Sessions’ past. But Sessions, an Alabama Republican, squeaked by in a vote that hewed closely to party lines, 52 to 47. “By your vote tonight, I have been given a real challenge. I’ll do my best to be worthy of it,” he said.|
|New York Times|
|Jordan Peele has made a horror film and the monster is racism|
|It’s a social thriller, says Peele, from the comedy duo Key and Peele. In a similar way that Rosemary’s Baby and The Stepford Wives are about gender, the evil in Peele’s world is about race. In this interview with former Gawker writer Caity Weaver, the two discuss race, their parents, comedy, Trump, Obama, how Tyra Banks is afraid of dolphins, and how recent box-office breakthroughs have made black protagonists possible. “More interesting to me is to feel a part of this renaissance of untapped voices that’s happening in the entertainment industry right now,” he says citing Donald Glover, Issa Rae and Ava duVernay. After reading this review it’s hard to imagine living in a world where Peele doesn’t make all the movies and Weaver doesn’t write all the reviews.|
|More data on the wealth gaps between the races|
|The St. Louis Fed provides more sad fodder for the wealth gap discussion, from a new report from their Center For Household Stability. While a family’s wealth tends to increase with education, not all races benefit equally. Black and Hispanic families tend to trail white families with the same education levels, even with a post-graduate degree. In fact, black families trail all other ethnic groups at every level of education.|
|St Louis Fed|
|Moovn gets a boost from the Uber’s stumbles|
|Ride-sharing is a tough business to crack, but relative newcomer Moovn saw a flurry of new attention from fans during the #DeleteUber backlash after the company broke a strike of mostly immigrant taxi drivers who were protesting the Muslim ban at JFK Airport. CEO Godwin Gabriel is an immigrant from Tanzania; his heartfelt open letter calling for unity after the ban was announced also won him praise. “I will forever be grateful to America,” it begins. Moovn is now in 12 cities: Boston, D.C., New York, Chicago, Portland, Seattle, San Francisco and internationally, in Dubai, Vancouver, Dar-es-Salaam, Johannesburg, South Africa, and Nairobi.|
The Woke Leader
|A young native girl and the librarian who helped her find the world|
|Storm Reyes was only 12 when she was brave enough to peek in the window of what turned out to be a bookmobile that was visiting the migrant camp where she lived and worked. She was desperately poor, abused and neglected, largely abandoned by her alcoholic parents. “I learned to fight with a knife long before I learned how to ride a bicycle,” she says. The oral historians at StoryCorps have taken an audio recording of Reyes’s story and matched it with a spare and touching animation of her journey that is sure to bring tears. Happy ones, I promise.|
|A rising star is making weight in Japan|
|Naomi Watanabe has a fashion line, is a fixture on Japanese television and magazines, and has millions of followers on Instagram. But at 220 pounds, she’s also an outlier in Japan, a country that values thinness in women to an extraordinary degree. (The government even has a law setting out maximum waist sizes for company employees over the age of 40.) But with confidence, humor and conviction, she’s challenging social norms in Japan, building a brand while promoting body positivity. Sure, she makes her fair share of sumo wrestler jokes, but “rather than trying to change other people’s minds,” she says, “I would like to help change the minds of bigger women, to help them feel good about themselves.”|
|“Dear White People” release date is announced Netflix, a small boycott ensues|
|The feature version of this indie darling focused on the thorny issues of race, privilege, sex and life on a college campus, with a student-run radio station offering the in-film voiceover for the drama of the day. The new Netflix series will debut this April, and includes some episodes directed by the recently Oscar-nominated Barry Jenkins (Moonlight). Some people on Twitter are upset about the name of the show. Check out #BoycottNetflix for more.|