Jesse Jackson says Amazon diversity data reflect ‘white male supremacy’
The newly released data show that men make up 63 percent of the global workforce and whites make up 60 percent of U.S. staff.
Seattle Times business reporter
For the first time, Amazon.com has released data on workplace diversity, something critics such as the Rev. Jesse Jackson long sought, showing that 37 percent of the company’s global workforce is female and its U.S. staff is 40 percent nonwhite.
Amazon’s data, though, cover its entire workforce of nearly 150,000 employees, including the tens of thousands who work at the company’s warehouses. Those warehouses are largely staffed by relatively lower-wage workers who are likely more diverse than the tech workers at Amazon’s Seattle headquarters.
Even so, Jackson said Amazon’s workforce is not representative of the country or of the customers who shop on the site. What’s more, Jackson noted, the company’s board and senior leadership are all white.
“It’s skewed toward white-male supremacy,” Jackson said. “They do not look like America.”
Amazon posted the diversity data on its website Friday but made no official announcement about it. A company spokesman declined to comment.
“Our diverse perspectives come from many sources including gender, race, age, national origin, culture, education, as well as professional and life experience,” the company said on the website. “We are working to develop leaders and shape future talent pools to help us meet the needs of our customers around the world.”
Other tech companies such as Microsoft employ far fewer women and minorities on a percentage basis. When Microsoft released its diversity data on Oct. 3, the company said its workforce was 71 percent male and 60.6 percent Caucasian. The largest minority at the company is Asian, who make up 28.9 percent of the staff.
Microsoft also broke out specific tech-worker data. Among those workers, 82.9 percent are male and 56.7 are Caucasian. Amazon did not break out specific diversity data for its tech workforce.
Amazon did disclose the composition of its management by gender and ethnicity. The company noted that 75 percent of its managers globally are men.
The company provided ethnicity data only for its U.S. staff. It said that 71 percent of its U.S. managers white. The largest minority of Amazon workers in the United States is black, representing 15 percent of the workforce. The largest minority in management consists of Asians, who make up 18 percent of the company’s leadership.
Jackson has been pushing the tech company for the past several months to release diversity numbers. Amazon had been among the longest holdouts, leading Jackson to publicly call on the company in September to disclose the data.
Now that the information is public, Jackson said Amazon still has much work to do.
“The numbers are embarrassing to them,” Jackson said. “Their marketplace is very American. But their workplace is not.”
Jackson said there is no shortage of talented minorities who could provide a more diverse workforce at Amazon.
He wants Amazon to set specific diversity goals and create timetables for meeting those goals, rather that merely offering up platitudes about how they can benefit from diversity. His Rainbow Push Coalition has been in touch with Amazon to persuade the company to improve.
On its website, Amazon notes that the diversity problem in tech often starts as early as high school, when female students and students of color pursue disciplines other than technology and engineering.
“We want to change this. We want all students to know the possibilities that await them at a company like Amazon,” the company wrote.
Jackson said he does not intend to push for a boycott to pressure Amazon to change its approach. “It’s premature,” Jackson said. “We need to meet with them first.”
So far, though, Amazon has declined to set up a meeting, Jackson said.