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CtW Investment Group calls on Amazon to improve gender diversity

Amazon.com Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Bezos

Union pension fund-backed group plans to file shareholder proposal for more executive, board diversity

CtW Investment Group is calling on Amazon.com Inc. to increase gender diversity among its executive ranks and corporate board.

In a Nov. 30 letter to Amazon Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Bezos, CtW Executive Director Dieter Waizenegger urged Mr. Bezos and the company's board to take various actions to increase gender diversity, including establishing targets for gender diversity on the senior executive team and working toward gender parity on the board; creating a stakeholder advisory council that focuses on promoting gender diversity, preventing sexual harassment, and other issues; and increasing the authority and independence of the company's existing employee "affinity groups."

The letter notes that women comprise roughly 40% of Amazon's total workforce, but only 25% of its management team. Women make up 30% of the 10-member board.

Mr. Waizenegger argued in the letter that CtW suspects that a roughly two-year lag between Amazon receiving reports of Amazon Studios President Roy Price's alleged harassment of Isa Hackett, a producer on Amazon's "The Man in the High Castle," and his recent departure in October, "stems ultimately from Amazon's failure to ensure that women have the opportunity to rise to the highest ranks within Amazon's workforce."

Mr. Waizenegger adds in the letter that CtW suspects women at Amazon are treated unfairly.

An Amazon spokeswoman declined to comment on CtW's letter but noted that the company has a number of female vice presidents across the company and was recognized by 2020 Women on Boards as having one of the most gender diverse boards in technology. The national campaign 2020 Women on Boards aims to increase the percentage of women on company boards to 20% by 2020.

CtW, which works with union-sponsored pension funds that have more than $250 billion in assets, plans to submit a shareholder proposal calling for increased gender diversity among Amazon's executive ranks and corporate board, Mr. Waizenegger noted in the letter. CtW officials could not immediately be reached for additional information.

CtW's letter to Amazon came a week after Twenty-First Century Fox Inc. announced that it formed The Fox News Workplace Professionalism and Inclusion Council to address a derivative lawsuit filed by the $202 million Monroe (Mich.) City Employees' Retirement System that alleged company officials did not take steps to address sexual harassment and racial discrimination.