The Amazon executives who report directly to CEO Jeff Bezos, helping him run a sprawling empire that touches more than one in four US households, includes just one woman: Beth Galetti, the company’s senior vice president of human resources.
The stark shortage of gender diversity goes at least one layer deeper than that. An organization chart published by The Information (paywall) shows only four women reporting to the executives who report to Bezos. That means women make up just five of the 59 executives The Information identified at the highest levels of Amazon. The chart also identifies the 17 members of the senior team, or S-team, who serve as Bezos’s core group of advisors. Galetti is the only woman in that group, too.
Note: the chart is incomplete, as it doesn’t show the direct reports to Galetti or David Zapolsky, Amazon’s general counsel. It’s likely that at least some of their lieutenants are women. Meanwhile, The Information shows Bezos with 10 direct reports but one, Diego Piacentini, is on sabbatical while serving in a pro-bono government post in Italy.
Amazon declined to comment when Quartz asked the company to explain why there are so few women in senior positions. But we can make educated guesses about some of the possible reasons for its lopsided gender split:
The tech sector doesn’t hire and promote enough women
In a tally of some of the biggest tech companies’ 2016 annual diversity reports, none were at gender parity and among the top five—Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft—women made up less than 40% of the workforce. Among managers, there are even fewer women, and Amazon says just 25% of its leaders are women. As a whole, the industry has a woeful record of recruiting, hiring, and retaining women at all levels.
There’s a lack of turnover among Amazon’s upper ranks
The average tenure among Bezos’ senior team is 15 years. Given that the company is just 23 years old, it means many were hired when Amazon was still relatively small, and Bezos was more likely to rely on personal acquaintances and connections. Entrepreneurs swear by referrals as a recruiting tool, but when founders hire the people they and their inner circle know, it inevitably perpetuates a lack of diversity in an organization.
And then there’s Amazon’s sharp-elbowed culture and punishing schedule, which historically include expectations of being available at all hours. While the company has made efforts to improve work-life balance for its employees, those demands would be felt most acutely by women with young families, making them more likely to leave the company in search of more flexibility. That means Amazon may have lost a generation of women who would now be in position to become senior leaders.
Update: Amazon provided the following statement: “We have female VPs across the company leading some of our most significant businesses — not including Beth Galetti, our SVP of HR. A few examples include Maria Renz, who’s overseeing our delivery experience (she was previously Jeff Bezos’ technical advisor). Shelley Reynolds, Amazon’s Worldwide Controller. Stephenie Landry, who conceived of, launched and now leads Prime Now. Cynthia Williams, leader of Fulfillment by Amazon. Christine Beauchamp, Amazon’s VP of Fashion. This is just a handful of the many women in significant roles at Amazon.” None save Galetti are members of Bezos’s senior team.