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Amazon’s Management Shakeup Reignites Debate Over Tech Diversity

The (very) slow path to executive diversity

In the last year and a half, Amazon.com Inc. has turned over its top echelon. The company has named a new chief executive officer and new chiefs for its most important divisions: cloud-computing, retail and logistics.

All four jobs have been filled by White men, a fact that was made plain on Tuesday when the latest announcement—that Amazon veteran Doug Herrington would lead the newly renamed Worldwide Amazon Stores business—was overshadowed by news that Amazon’s two most senior Black logistics executives were leaving.

“So this is how Amazon celebrates Juneteenth?” quipped one former employee who asked to remain anonymous talking about their past employer. Juneteenth, observed on Monday, recognizes the emancipation of enslaved Black people after the Civil War. Some companies marked the day with paid time off or other benefits. At Amazon, Monday was a workday.

John Felton, Amazon’s newly appointed logistics chief, announced the departure of the two Black senior leaders, Alicia Boler Davis and Dave Bozeman, in an email to staff on Tuesday. Boler Davis ran Amazon’s main warehouses and had been widely seen as a leading candidate for the logistics job. Bozeman was in charge of the network of long-haul trucks and planes shuttling goods within Amazon’s network. Before Felton’s promotion Tuesday, he, Bozeman and Boler Davis had been peers, with Felton running delivery.

Amazon CEO Andy Jassy said in an email to senior leaders on Tuesday that he was sorry to see Boler Davis and Bozeman leave. While the company had made “substantial progress” in hiring Black managers in the last two years, “it’s not lost on any of us that we’re losing two of our most senior Black leaders,” he said in the memo, reported earlier by tech news site GeekWire. Jassy and his team are committed to continuing to hire and develop Black employees and people from other underrepresented groups, he said.

Meanwhile, there have been other noteworthy departures in the last year. Miriam Daniel and Toni Reid, the two highest profile female executives in Amazon’s devices group—the folks behind Alexa—both decamped for Google.

As Jassy told my colleague Emily Chang in an interview earlier this month, people leave jobs for all sorts of reasons. Sometimes they just want to try new things. But for Amazon, the latest departures are not a good look.

Amazon and its high-tech rivals, whose leadership ranks are disproportionately White and male, have set corporate goals for building a workforce that is a more accurate representation of society and their customers. They’ve said such moves are good for business. They’re also an imperative in an industry in which coveted engineers and salespeople aren’t shy about demanding workplaces that share their social values.

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