Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ next right-hand man, it turns out, is a woman. Bezos recently named Maria Renz as the technical adviser to the CEO, a coveted position that for more than 15 years has always been held by a man, the tech blog Recode reported Tuesday.
Renz’s appointment to the top position comes amid a groundswell of national debate about gender equality in California’s Silicon Valley. At giant technology companies like Amazon.com Inc., Google Inc., and Apple Inc., men occupy an overwhelming majority of engineering, computing and managerial positions, even though company officials all say they’re working to bolster diversity in their workforce. Among Amazon’s team of eight executive officers, only one is a woman: Shelley Reynolds, the company’s worldwide controller.
As technical adviser, Renz will work as Bezos’ shadow, helping to advise the CEO in daily meetings and on important corporate decisions, Recode noted. Renz, who has worked with Amazon for 15 years, most recently served as CEO of Quidsi, the owner of retail sites like Diapers.com and Soap.com that Amazon acquired in 2011 for $545 million. Her LinkedIn profile shows she started her new advisory role in April.
According to Recode, technical advisers at Amazon typically serve in the role for two years before moving on to head the company’s prominent initiatives. Former “shadows” include Andy Jassy, who heads the Amazon Web Services cloud computing division, and Amit Agarwal, who is running Amazon’s burgeoning India business.
Women in the technology sector have recently started urging the media to cover their success stories, along with news about glass ceilings and gender discrimination. Last week, a group of more than 50 female founders and executives of tech companies co-signed a letter posted on Recode that encouraged news outlets to highlight the “missing perspective on women in tech.”
“Looking at the press, one might think women entrepreneurs are not only hard to find, but struggling to succeed,” Sukhinder Singh Cassidy, the founder of online video shopping startup Joyus, wrote in the open letter. “If we want to progress the path of potential women founders, it is equally important to bring this perspective to the table.”