Arjuna Capital, the activist arm of the investment firm Baldwin Brothers, submitted a proposal to Amazon to allow shareholders to vote on gender pay equality. The proposal called for an October deadline for the company to report on the differences in pay between male and female employees, as well as present plans to close the gap. Amazon sought permission from the Securities and Exchange Commission(SEC) to omit the proposal from company’s annual ballot. Amazon considered the proposal to be “so inherently vague or indefinite” that it would be difficult to implement. SEC rejected Amazon’s claim and ruled that the company should put the proposal on the ballot.
Amazon defended itself from the claim of a gender pay gap by stating, “We’re committed to fairly and equitably compensating all our employees, and we review all employee compensation on at least an annual basis to ensure that it meets that bar.” Amazon also stated that it is working with organizations like Girls Who Code to increase the number of women in the tech industry.
Last year Arjuna had filed a similar proposal with eBay, which was voted down by the shareholders. This year, Arjuna resubmitted its proposal with eBay as well as eight additional companies. According to Arjuna, Amazon was the only company which asked for permission to omit the proposal from voting. Arjuna withdrew proposals from Apple and Intel after the companies took action to deal with the issue. Intel reports that it pays men and women equally.
Natasha Lamb, director of shareholder engagement at Arjuna argues that companies will be less competitive if they don’t do more to promote diversity. “It’s not simply a social justice issue,” she said, “It’s an issue that affects performance, affects the company’s ability to attract and retain top talent.”
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