It took more than two years, but Jeff Bezos has promoted more women to Amazon’s “S team,” an elite group of senior company executives who run the sprawling tech giant and still consists mainly of white men.
In recent weeks, Amazon promoted Amazon Fashion vice president Christine Beauchamp and Amazon advertising vice president Colleen Aubrey to the senior leadership team, along with four male executives. Beauchamp and Aubrey now join Amazon’s human resources chief Beth Galetti as the only three women in what will be a 22-person group as of the new year.
The “S-team” has regular and direct access to Bezos, even though not all of the executives report directly to him. And even in an industry plagued by gender and racial disparity, it has stood out for its homogeneity. Adding two women makes this team slightly more diverse, but it underscores how far Amazon still has to go.
Amazon employees began to speak out internally about the issue in 2017 following a sexual harassment scandal involving Amazon’s now-former studio head Roy Price. Recode reported the following the year that some employees were outraged that Amazon’s then-all white board of directors opposed a shareholder proposal that would require the company to formalize the inclusion of both women and minorities in candidate pools when searching for new board members.
After the backlash, Amazon ended up adopting the policy less than a week later, and has since added two women of color to its board: Starbucks COO Rosalind “Roz” Brewer and former Pepsi CEO Indra Nooyi.
While having input and perspectives from a more diverse group of executives and employees intuitively feels like a smart thing to do, research also backs up the business case for it. A recent McKinsey study found that “companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians” and that “companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians.”
Still, recent diversity disclosures from tech giants show that they’ve made little progress on diversity over the last five years.
“These are incredibly smart people, but they’re not willing to do the due diligence to learn where to go” to find and hire diverse employees, Bärí Williams, a startup executive, told Recode earlier this year.
At Amazon, Bezos has previously told employees at an all-staff meeting that lack of turnover on his executive team was one reason for slow progress. But in the last few months, long-time Amazon executives Jeff Blackburn and Steve Kessel have announced that they are leaving the company in the new year; the former on a one-year sabbatical, the latter for good.
Several of the new S-team members oversee emerging parts of Amazon’s growing empire. Beauchamp joined Amazon in 2017 and leads the company’s entire apparel division, including its assortment of in-house fashion brands. Aubrey has been with Amazon since 2005 and runs a large portion of Amazon’s fast-growing advertising business — best known for the “sponsored” product ads increasingly proliferating in search results on the site.
The group of new “S-team” members also includes Alexa vice president Rohit Prasad, Amazon Prime chief Neil Lindsey, and corporate development vice president Peter Krawiec, who played a central role in Amazon’s 2017 acquisition of Whole Foods.