Amazon resists a push for gender pay equality

An activist investor has asked nine technology companies to report on the gap between their male and female workers' pay, but only Amazon (AMZN) is requesting permission to leave the proposal off the ballot when shareholders vote.

Conversely, two technology titans opted to get moving on the issue on their own, prompting the activist fund to rescind its resolutions submitted for shareholder votes at Intel (INTC) and Apple (APPL), while suggesting other tech companies get with the program.

Arjuna Capital, the activist leg of investment firm Baldwin Brothers, submitted the requests, which also ask companies to explain how they plan to level the playing field when it comes to gender and wages.

Amazon, which did not return requests for comment, has opted to ignore the lead set by Intel and Apple, while looking to the Securities and Exchange Commission to remove the issue before its annual meeting in June.

The SEC weighed in last week, saying the retailer should let shareholders vote on a gender pay equality proposal, disagreeing with Amazon's contention that the proposal was "so inherently vague or indefinite" that it would be difficult to follow.

If nothing else, Amazon is used to pressure and bad press on how it treats its workforce. The New York Times in August quoted a slew of former and current Amazon employees as having brutal experiences working at the company. In November Amazon it would offer paternity leave to its employees in the wake of the negative reports.

Beyond Amazon, six other tech companies have resolutions coming to shareholders in the months ahead, according to Arjuna Capital: eBay (EBAY), where a vote is scheduled for May; Facebook (FB), Google (GOOG) and Expedia (EXPE), where votes are set for June; Adobe (ADBE), where dialogue with Arjuna Capital is under way; Microsoft (MSFT), where resolutions are being filed before a shareholder meeting in December.

The median income for women working full-time in the U.S. is reported to be 78 percent of that of their male counterparts, Arjuna Capital asserted in its Facebook proposal. "At the current rate, women will not reach pay parity until 2058."

In early February, Intel said it had achieved 100 percent gender equity on pay. This month, Apple touted reaching 99.6 percent equal pay.

At Apple's annual meeting in February, CEO Tim Cook announced the results of the company's gender pay assessment and said it's committed to closing the pay gap.