Elizabeth Nieto, the leader of Amazon’s Global Diversity, Equity and Inclusion team, is leaving the Seattle tech giant unexpectedly for a new job at Spotify after less than two years in the role, citing a desire to be closer to her family in New York.
She will be replaced on an interim basis by Alfonso Palacios, a 15-year veteran of Amazon, according to an internal memo to employees, obtained by GeekWire. Palacios, an Amazon vice president, currently oversees the company’s Recruiting Engine team, which develops internal technology used by Amazon’s recruiters.
Nieto, who joined Amazon in April 2019, previously worked as a human resources and DEI leader at MetLife for almost seven years, and Citigroup for nearly 20 years.
Her departure comes amid heightened scrutiny of diversity, equity and inclusion at major American companies, part of the renewed push for racial justice across the country over the past year.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has been a public champion of the cause of racial equality, prompting calls over the past year for Amazon to do more to address issues of racial injustice inside the company, including a proposal to add a new Amazon leadership principle related to inclusion.
Most of the executives on Amazon’s senior leadership team are white men. The company has launched a variety of programs in recent years to address racial injustice and promote diversity and equity at the company and in the tech industry.
“During her time at Amazon, Elizabeth has helped us establish bold companywide commitments and strengthened systems to monitor our collective progress in driving equity, increasing diversity, and building an inclusive culture across Amazon,” wrote Beth Galetti, Amazon’s senior vice president of human resources (now known inside Amazon as People Experience and Technology), in the internal memo. “Elizabeth has been an influential voice and effective leader in helping advance our work on this incredibly important issue.”
Amazon’s latest workforce diversity report, in December 2019, found that 26.5% of its U.S. employees identified as Black/African American, and 18.5% as Hispanic/Latinx. Women earned 99.3 cents for every dollar earned by men in the same jobs, and minorities earned 99.1 cents for every dollar earned by white employees in the same jobs, according to the company.
The company plans to search for a long-term leader for the Global DEI team. Galetti’s memo called Palacios “uniquely positioned to oversee this work in the interim,” saying he has been “a dedicated partner as we’ve developed our DEI goals and strategy and is looking forward to continue to move this work forward.”
We’ve contacted Spotify for details on Nieto’s new role.