Arjuna Capital, the activist arm of investment firm Baldwin Brothers, has withdrawn pressure on Amazon to disclose its gender-based pay policies after the e-retail giant said that an internal study shows that its female workers are paid the same as its male workers.
In a review that looked at base pay as well as stock compensation, an outside labor expert found that women at Amazon earn 99.9 cents for every dollar that men earn in the same jobs. That review also found that minorities at Amazon earn 100.1 cents for every dollar that white employees earn in the same jobs. Amazon added that, as of July 2015, women make up 39% of its global workforce and 24% of its managers.
The Securities and Exchange Commission ruled last week that Amazon should allow shareholders to vote on a proposal on gender pay equality put forward by Arjuna that Amazon sought to omit from its proxy statement.
Amazon, widely seen as a technology company as much as a retail company, is among the many organizations facing mounting scrutiny for gender equality. The tech sector is dominated by men, and often criticized for unfair pay and working conditions for women.
Activist investors often pressure companies to unlock value from real estate or spin-off units that are carrying the business, but in this case Arjuna Capital appears to be making its moves for more socially-minded reasons.
"We are pleased Amazon is stepping up in response to investor concerns about gender pay equity," said Natasha Lamb, director of shareholder engagement at Arjuna, in a press release. Lamb also said that Amazon should continue to make public its policies and goals to close the gender pay gap.
"At the current rate of change, the gender pay gap is not expected to close for another 40 years," Lamb added. "This is not only bad for society, it is bad for business. Fostering gender-diverse teams leads to more innovative better performing companies. Companies can and should commit to closing the gender pay gap, as Amazon has done today. But it won't happen without bold leadership."
Amazon’s study is great news, although it may not go very far in repairing Amazon’s overall reputation for dismal working conditions at its white-collar offices as well as in its warehouses. Earlier this month, Bloomberg News reported that Amazon has installed big-screen monitors to broadcast streams of images of workers fired after they were caught stealing on the job: The employees are seen in silhouette, stamped with the words “Terminated” or "Arrested."