For more than 15 years, one role at Amazon has stood out as perhaps the most coveted: Jeff Bezos’s “shadow,” who acts as an adviser to the CEO, sitting by his side in daily meetings and serving as a sounding board on big decisions. But, as the years have passed and shadows have appeared and exited, the role stood out for another reason: A woman has never held it. Until now.

Bezos recently named 15-year Amazon veteran Maria Renz to the role of “shadow” or, more formally, technical adviser to the CEO. Renz was most recently CEO of Quidsi, the parent company of that Amazon acquired in 2011. She has held a variety of other roles at the company, including president of its MyHabit flash-sale business and VP of its physical media business, according to her LinkedIn profile. Renz replaces former Kindle VP Jay Marine, who is moving on after two years as the shadow, or technical adviser, to run the company’s Amazon Instant Video business in Europe. Old Navy veteran Emilie Scott has replaced Renz as CEO of Quidsi.

While the appointment of Renz is noteworthy, it also shines a light on the dearth of women in the senior-most roles at Amazon and, more broadly, in the executive ranks of many leading technology companies today. Amazon has seven executive officers in addition to Jeff Bezos and only one, Worldwide Controller Shelley Reynolds, is a woman.

Historically, shadows have gone on to run some of the company’s most crucial initiatives after their typical two-year stint is up. Andy Jassy, head of the company’s successful AWS unit, was once a shadow. So was Amit Agarwal, who is running Amazon’s India business, in which Bezos has promised to invest $2 billion.

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Written by Jason Del Rey


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