Microsoft has repeatedly said it's committed to boosting diversity. Now the company has strengthened that commitment by pledging it will seek minority candidates who could one day take the place of CEO Satya Nadella.
"The board is committed to actively seeking highly qualified women and individuals from minority groups to include in the pool of potential CEO candidates," Microsoft said in its annual proxy statement on Monday. The board handles CEO succession planning, including identifying both internal and external candidates and coming up with plans to develop internal candidates, according to the filing.
The statement does not signal anything about Nadella's plans or status -- Microsoft, like nearly every other company, regularly includes language about succession planning in its annual filings. However, the statement's commitment to diversity at the CEO level is new, and is unusual among tech companies.
Microsoft is among the many technology companies that have released data showing their relative lack of racial and gender diversity and said they intended to increase diversity. Nadella, who was born in southern India, brought diversity to the CEO seat when he succeeded Steve Ballmer in 2014. Now, as Microsoft seeks to acknowledge social tensions, the company's board appears eager to emphasize its own commitment to diversity.
In recent years Microsoft's board-level diversity has increased somewhat. In its proxy, the company claims seven out of the 12 board members are "diverse" -- that includes women and non-White board members. In 2014, shortly after Nadella took over, five out of the 10 board members were "diverse." The board's chairman since 2014, John Thompson, is Black.
Microsoft released diversity figures for the first time in 2014, as did competitors such as Amazon and Google. The report showed Microsoft was 71.0% male globally and 60.6% White in the U.S. By 2019 Microsoft was 70.7% male globally and 52.1% White in the U.S.
In June, after George Floyd died while in police custody in Minnesota, Nadella became more vocal on diversity.
"As we see the everyday racism, bias and violence experienced by the Black and African American community, the tragic and horrific murders of so many, the violence in cities across the US, it is time for us to act in all arenas," he told employees in a memo. Weeks later he sent out another memo, saying that Microsoft "will double the number of Black and African American people managers, senior individual contributors, and senior leaders in the United States by 2025."
Earlier this month Microsoft said the U.S. Labor Department had contacted the company to determine if the plan is illegal.