Apple has asked the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to exclude a shareholder proposal that would attach diversity of senior executives to CEO performance.
Apple’s letter to the regulator on Oct. 9 is the latest move in a protracted fight between the company and several shareholders on the matter.
Apple Vice President of Corporate Law Gene Levoff asked the agency in his letter for approval of Apple to exclude the proposal, saying that it has already been brought up twice before and received only about 6 percent approval from Apple shareholders.
The company also believes that a forced mandate is not the best way to improve diversity.
The shareholders pushing the initiative feel differently, despite low support.
“The IT industry has had a very public struggle with diversity and inclusion. Tim Cook, in particular, has led Apple to publicly state their commitment and to support critical social issues like immigration policy,” said Laura Campos, a director at the Nathan Cummings Foundation, one of the entities pushing the shareholder proposal.
“Implementing the proposal rather than attempting to exclude it would allow Apple to continue to lead their industry by creating real accountability for their stated values,” she continued.
A spokesperson for the shareholders did not disclose the total value of their holdings, but noted that the collective worth of the funds, corporations and individuals taking up the fight is $9.4 billion. The Employees’ Retirement System of Rhode Island makes up with the bulk of this sum, holding $8 billion in assets.
When asked about the matter, Apple pointed to its diversity initiatives which range from pushes for more STEM education to college funds for minority students.
The company’s diversity numbers, along with much of the tech sector, lack representation of minorities. The company has said it’s committed to improving these numbers.
News of the letter comes after members of the Congressional Black Caucus launched an effort earlier this month to improve employee diversity in Silicon Valley.
During the trip, lawmakers expressed frustration with tech firms over what they saw as a lack of firm plans to increase the number of underrepresented minorities at their firms.