Amazon’s board just became a little more woke with the appointment of Rosalind Brewer, Starbucks COO. Its 10-person board now has four women members, and of course 6 white guys as well. The e-commerce giant and other big companies have been under pressure to diversify their boards. Given Brewer’s breadth of retail experience, could she be exactly what Amazon needs to kill two birds with one stone; traditional retail and its ongoing diversity struggles?
The Breakdown You Need to Know
Amazon has proven it can dramatically reshape whole, seemingly disconnected industries and now they’ve figured out board diversity. However, Rosalind Brewer is the second black woman to ever become a board director at Amazon. Myrtle Potter, former president and COO of Genentech, was on the company’s board from 2004 to 2009. However, CultureBanx reported Brewer holds the keys based on her former role as CEO of Walmart owned Sam’s Club to help Amazon crush what’s left of retail.
Brewer’s appointment by Amazon could also be indicative that the Amazon Go initiative in the U.S. won’t be aimed at directly challenging Starbucks, perhaps sort of a peace offering to the coffee chain. Not to mention since Walmart is a top Amazon competitor this could be another way to for the e-commerce company to finally put the nail in the coffin of traditional big box stores.
Corporate Governance Mindfulness
Amazon’s board did adopt the the “Rooney Rule last year, which calls for the initial list of candidates chosen to include qualified women and minorities. The company had been courting Brewer for some time as she was appointed to Amazon’s leadership development and compensation committee, prior to being elected to fill the board seat vacated by John Seely Brown.
Brewers board appointment is a win for all diverse professionals who need a reflection of themselves at the director level. Minority women hold less than five percent of board seats in Fortune 500 companies, according to Deloitte’s 2018 Board Diversity Census. Research compiled by Catalyst found that only one third of companies in the S&P 500 had three or more women on their boards in 2018.
Companies with higher levels of diversity at the board level, are more likely to have strong financial performance and fewer instances of poor corporate governance, according to research from McKinsey and MSCI. There are companies heeding this research because in 2018 Facebook , AirBnB, Uber, Netflix and Etsy all added African-American executives to their boards. Amazon’s entire board stands for reelection at its May annual meeting.