There is a big movement for tech companies to publicly share data about the gender and racial diversity of their employees. However, while some companies are using this moment of crisis to show commitment to developing a more diverse, more productive workforce, others are less than eager to disclose numbers. In fact, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) just rejected a request from tech giant Amazon for exemption from a request from one of their investors to disclose gender pay data.
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On March 17, the SEC rejected Amazon‘s request to remove a resolution from two of Amazon’s investors, Arjuna Capital, from their June shareholders’ meeting ballot. Arjuna, the activist arm of well-known investment firm Baldwin Brothers, Inc., has made similar requests for other companies they invest in, including Apple and Intel. Arjuna specifically focuses on social issues within their organization, and gender pay equity is just one cause that they triumph. However, as Natasha Lamb, director of equity research and shareholder engagement, states, the emphasis on making portfolio companies disclose pay equity data isn’t simply the morally just thing to do: “Paying women a fair wage is essential to driving diversity, which is critical to innovation and performance… A proactive approach to gender pay equity is just good business.”
This isn’t the first time Amazon has been behind the curve on general pay equity trends. Though the company does publish gender and racial diversity numbers, both company-wide and for managers, they faced scathing criticism in a New York Times article last year, and they have been widely criticized for warehouse worker conditions and pay in the past several years. However, the company did revamp their parental leave policy in November 2015 to provide up to six months of leave for new parents. In their request to the SEC to not disclose pay equity data, they cited that the request was “so inherently vague or indefinite” that it would be impossible to fulfill. Arjuna asked several tech companies they have investments in for similar reporting, including Oracle, eBay, and Intel, but Amazon was the only company to resist.
It must be said that the general movement towards more disclosure was prompted by a flurry of articles revealing that high-paying tech jobs are mostly held by young white dudes, but ultimately it’s good that this data is being made available. In response, some tech companies, like Salesforce, GoDaddy, Apple, and Intel have already hired external auditors to look for gender pay gaps in their workforces, and others, like Accenture and SpaceX, have announced plans to do the same. And thanks to state and federal legislature, many companies will be required to report gender pay data in coming years. In fact, PayScale will soon be releasing new tools to help employers of all sizes identify and correct gender pay inequities in their workforce. Stay tuned!
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