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New Amazon data shows Black, Latino and female employees are underrepresented in best-paid jobs

Katherine Anne Long, The Seattle Times on

Published in Business News

Amazon published Wednesday the most detailed look yet at its workforce demographic data, showing what many critics of the company have long suspected: Black, Latino and female employees are underrepresented in the best-paid jobs at Amazon.

The only segment where the number of women reflects countrywide demographics is among the company's nearly 850,000 U.S. employees working lower-paid jobs, including in warehouses. Black and Latino workers are overrepresented in that slice of Amazon employees.

Amazon released the data as it announced wide-ranging workforce diversity goals for the next year. The company plans to increase its representation of Black employees and women among its corporate workforce, including by doubling the number of Black executives and hiring 30% more women for senior technology roles. Amazon also plans to hire 30% more Black employees to work as product managers, engineers, designers and in other corporate roles.

Amazon will begin inspecting data on retention and performance ratings by race, gender and ethnicity to "identify root causes" of any disparities and "as necessary, implement action plans" to ensure that the company retains employees at statistically similar rates across all demographics, Amazon's head of human resources, Beth Galetti, wrote in a blog post. All employees will be required to take inclusion training, and Amazon will begin rooting out racially insensitive terms in its code base, Galetti added. Other companies have recently taken similar steps to change programming terms like "master" and "slave" that recall racist history.

"This is some of the most important work we have ever done, and we are committed to building a more inclusive and diverse Amazon for the long term," Galetti said in the blog post. "I am grateful to the many employees who continue to share their experiences with me and other senior leaders. Tough feedback is always uncomfortable to hear, but their stories remind us that we have more work to do to achieve our goals."

Many tech companies have struggled to become appreciably more diverse, even as they've become more open about releasing workforce demographic data. Industry giants like Google, Microsoft and Facebook have been reporting on their efforts to increase workforce diversity for years, but their most recent data still paints a picture of a sector in which the best-paying technical and leadership roles are dominated by white and Asian men.

 

Amazon began publishing limited data about its workforce demographics in 2014. Its release of more detailed data comes amid mounting criticism that the company has not done enough to give high-paid employment and promotion opportunities to women and people of color.

Black employees in Amazon's corporate offices have said they're paid less and promoted less rapidly than their white peers, a recent Vox investigation found. Charlotte Newman, a Black Amazon Web Services (AWS) employee, last month sued Amazon over alleged racial and gender discrimination, saying the tech giant gave her a job title and a salary out of step with the higher-level work she actually performed.

Employee activists have submitted shareholder proposals every year since 2019 asking Amazon to release more detailed data on pay gaps and promotion velocity by gender and race. Amazon has sought to keep many of those proposals from reaching a shareholder vote.

Amazon agreed last year to release more detailed diversity metrics after New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer threatened to oppose Amazon's candidates for board of directors at the company's 2021 shareholder meeting if the company did not disclose the information.

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