Apple’s Board Increases Diversity After Longest-Serving Member Retires

WANG ZHAO/AFP/Getty Images

WANG ZHAO/AFP/Getty Images

Bill Campbell, the longest-serving member of Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) board of directors, is stepping down after seventeen years of service the company announced on Thursday. The board elected BlackRock (NYSE:BLK) co-founder Susan Wagner to replace Campbell, in a move that will expand the diversity of Apple’s board. Before Wagner’s appointment, Apple had only one woman on its board: former Avon (NYSE:AVP) CEO Andrea Jung. Besides Wagner and Jung, all of Apple’s other six board members are white men over the age of fifty.

Campbell is well-known to Apple watchers since he has been involved with the company since 1983, when he was hired as vice president of marketing. In 1997, he was asked by Apple co-founder Steve Jobs to join the board of directors, an event that he recalled in a recent interview with Fortune. “He came by one day, and we sat on a bench by the pool and he said, ‘I’d like you to join the Apple board,’” Campbell told Fortune. “The only time I’ve had a rush like that was when I was asked to be a trustee of Columbia University. I said, without hesitation, ‘For sure.’”

Campbell is the longest-serving board member in the company’s history next to co-founders Steve Jobs and Mike Markkula. As noted by CEO Tim Cook, Campbell joined Apple’s board during a crucial time in the company’s history when it narrowly avoided declaring bankruptcy. “When Bill joined Apple’s board, the company was on the brink of collapse,” said Cook in a press release. “He not only helped Apple survive, but he’s led us to a level of success that was simply unimaginable back in 1997.”

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The news of Wagner’s appointment follows a recent report from The Wall Street Journal that cited “people familiar with the company” who said Cook was actively looking for new directors to add to the board. It is unclear if Cook’s search was just to find a replacement for Campbell, or if further changes to the board are in the works.

Earlier this year, Apple altered its “Nominating and Corporate Governance Committee Charter” in response to criticism over its lack of diversity among its board members. “The Committee is committed to actively seeking out highly qualified women and individuals from minority groups to include in the pool from which Board nominees are chosen,” stated Apple in its revised charter.

Wagner appears to be the ideal candidate for increasing the diversity of Apple’s board. As noted by Apple, at BlackRock Wagner was a vocal supporter of the Women’s Initiative Network, an organization that helps foster the full potential of women in the workplace. She has also been honored by the National Council for Research on Women and has been previously named as one of Fortune’s “50 Most Powerful Women in Business.” Although she is retired from BlackRock, Wagner still serves on the company’s board, as well as on the boards of Swiss Re, Wellesley College and Hackley School.

“We conducted an exhaustive search for someone who would further strengthen our board’s breadth of talent and background, and we are delighted to have identified such an outstanding individual,” said Apple chairman Art Levinson. “I’m confident that Sue is going to make an important and positive impact on our company.”

Besides expanding the diversity of its board, Apple has also recently taken steps to increase the diversity of its executive team. Earlier this year, former Burberry CEO Angela Ahrendts became the only female member of Apple’s executive team when she was hired to head the company’s retail and online stores.

While Apple has taken steps to include women on its board and on its executive team, many other companies continue to be criticized over their lack of diversity. According to a recent study by non-profit organization Catalyst, women only held 16.9 percent of corporate board seats and 14.6 percent of executive officer positions among Fortune 500 companies in 2013.

Earlier this year, U.S. civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow Push Coalition launched a campaign to highlight the lack of minorities in leadership positions at Silicon Valley tech companies. More recently, Jackson has pressured Twitter (NYSE:TWTR) to release its employee diversity information.

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