Apple — Inclusion & Diversity — Open 1.15 Million Views

I came across this short film while researching Apple. It really connected me with the humanity behind the Apple brand. Currently, I am assigned to our awards selection team reviewing potential candidates for our 2019 TOP50 Most Influential Diversity Star honors. The video was impressive enough to inspire me to take a pause and write this post. In fact, I uncovered many other amazing R&I Management assets on Apple’s Inclusion & Diversity webpage.

I have to admit I find it rather curious how Apple has made a point to reverse the order of the common departmental phrase “Diversity & Inclusion” to its own proprietary version, Inclusion & Diversity. This piqued my curiosity as the rest of the HR world is accustomed with coining the term, Diversity & Inclusion (D&I). However, it really doesn’t matter because regardless of how Apple’s team chooses to label their efforts, they are certainly knocking it out of the park when it comes to their Content Marketing strategy.


Their Inclusion & Diversity webpage is admirable. Apple is transparent with their stats and offer a comprehensive look at their last five years. Website visitors can view overall Global Gender and U.S. Race and Ethnicity stats and then drill down further and segment that data according to Tech, Nontech, Leadership, Retail, and Retail Leadership roles.

This transparency is of the utmost importance, especially as it illustrates that although Apple has been making significant strides moving forward, they still have a long and challenging road ahead of them. Especially with women in leadership roles, which has only realized a subpar 1% increase over the last 5 years and has now paused for the last 2 years, left stagnant at only 29%.

The U.S. Race and Ethnicity stats for Leadership roles have improved a little better over the last 5 years with the largest gain seen by Asian Leadership roles at Apple climbing 5% over the last five years.

Don’t let these numbers get you agitated. It’s easy to sit back and criticize corporations for their shortfalls when addressing diversity challenges and another to be the person at the helm actually responsible for achieving a cohesive buy in of diversity & inclusion policies throughout the entire enterprise.

Tim Cook, has been Apple’s CEO since 2011. Tim was the only openly gay CEO of a Fortune 500 company back in 2017 when he came out openly for the first time.

“I’m proud to be gay, and I consider being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me,” the Apple CEO wrote in an essay published in Businessweek back in 2017. He was clear, too, that he saw his sexuality as an advantage, despite the challenges. “Being gay has given me a deeper understanding of what it means to be in the minority,” he wrote.

Before Cook came out, there were no openly gay CEOs in the Fortune 500, according to Deena Fidas of the Human Rights Campaign.

Tim Cook, CEO at Apple since 2011

Cook has been clear that he sees diversity as vital to the future of Apple. In 2013, he used an article in the Wall Street Journal to share his belief that “people are more willing to give of themselves when they feel that they selves are being fully recognised and embraced”. In 2015, he said that diversity “is the future of our company”.

For Apple to be diverse makes sense. Its customers are international – the firm’s biggest markets are the Americas, Europe, China and the Asia Pacific – and its biggest rival, Samsung, is South Korean. “The world is intertwined,” Cook told a student newspaper, the Auburn Plainsman. “You really need to have a deep understanding of cultures.” Then there’s the fact that women are more likely to own an iPhone than men. Plus, Apple is a company that has always thrived on anticipating what customers want before they even realise they want it. Studies suggest that diversity is crucial in generating ideas.

But when Cook took over, there was little pressure to act on diversity. The preoccupation of investors and customers alike was whether one middle-aged white man (Cook) could succeed in the absence of the brilliance of another (Steve Jobs). Although Jobs might have said he believed in diverse experiences – such as, in his case, taking LSD – in practice, he presided over a company where the leadership was almost exclusively white and male. Jobs, not his employees, was seen as the driving force of innovation. By contrast, Cook seemed square, unimaginative and ordinary.

But, as Kahney’s biography shows, Cook was also a practical person, who had endeared himself to Jobs by overhauling the company’s operations. “Most of the issues have been created by humans,” he told Mashable while discussing diversity. “So they can be fixed.”

Because Apple believed that “diversity leads to better products,” he said, “you obviously put a ton of energy behind diversity the same way you would put a ton of energy behind anything else that is truly important”.

Tim Cook’s practical policies to make Apple more inclusive

Cook made high profile appointments of women and minorities, including adding three women to the executive team, and introduced a commitment to proactively recruit directors from minority groups. He started an annual inclusion and diversity report. Apple has also created Diversity Network Associations, and partnered with organisations promoting women in tech. The number of women appearing on the stage to introduce Apple products increased (admittedly from a very low base). Ads for Apple products featured a more diverse cast than before.

More unusually for a businessman, he got involved in politics, championing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, and publicly criticising his home state for upholding discriminatory legislation. He has defended breaking the tradition of business leaders staying schtum by arguing “all companies have values”, and that he, as CEO, should “lead accordingly”.

So, did it work? The answer is in the inclusion and diversity report, and it appears to be – sort of. In 2017, 32% of Apple employees were women, an increase of 2 percentage points from 2014, but still not at parity (and when you drill down into the data, it becomes clear there are larger numbers of women working in Apple stores, and rather less working on the tech). In 2014, 19% of employees were from underrepresented minorities, and that rose 4 percentage points to 23% in 2017. Apple’s new hires are more likely to be black, Hispanic, or Asian than they were before, although the greatest numbers are still white.

Cook has urged patience, telling the Mashable interviewer “it’s not an overnight thing”. Critics, such as Apple shareholder Antonio Avian Maldonado II, think differently. He has used his shares to try to pressurise Apple into adopting an “accelerated recruitment policy” to diversify the senior leadership more. Apple advised its shareholders to vote against the policy.

The tech sector’s diversity challenge

But the last decade has seen huge change in tech – and not just in iPad upgrades. Pressure is growing on tech giants to show that they are inclusive places for everyone, with Google employees staging a walkout in late 2018 to protest the treatment of women. While tech bosses have traditionally managed to hush up discrimination complaints by dealing with them in-house, this seems unsustainable in the era of #MeToo.

In fact, compared to the tech sector as a whole, Apple scores relatively highly on the diversity front. The civil rights campaigner Jesse Jackson called Apple “perhaps the most inclusive of any tech company”. The test will be whether it maintains its lead. Other tech firms are now also following Cook’s practical example. The workplace app Slack recruits from all-women coding courses and holds “blind” coding tests to eliminate bias. Facebook’s diversity report shows steady progress.

The chances are that Cook will step down before all groups are equally represented in Apple. But he has shown that a CEO can drive diversity, both in a company with 130,000 employees, and through the wider industry as well. And while Cook may have been influenced by personal experience, changing expectations within the tech world means the next CEO will be under pressure to continue the legacy of diversity – whoever he or she may be.

Outside of the Tech space, GM has just became the first Fortune 500 in the automotive industry to appoint a female Chairman & CEO at the helm alongside a female CFO, The Tech industry should take notice.I believe that Mary Teresa Barra, Chairwoman and CEO of General Motors Company and her CFO counterpart Dhivya Suryadevara will fulfill their legacies at GM and transform the brand back to its former glory.

Left Mary Teresa Barra, CEO at GM and right Dhivya Suryadevara, CFO at GM.

In the end, I was surprised to learn about the extent to which Tim Cook drives diversity at Apple. I am definitely nominating him for a TOP50 Diversity Star of the Year award in 2019. I always found it difficult to try to visualize what Cook’s legacy would be at Apple. After all, he was the successor to visionary Steve Jobs. It was unclear if Cook could live up to the expectations of stepping into Job’s CEO role. Today, nearly 9 years after Cook succeeded Jobs, I have the utmost respect for Cook. it is now clear that driving diversity at Apple will be his legacy and in my opinion, Silicon Valley could use more leaders like Cook.

written by –

Christian Monk, Co-Founder and CMO at Diversity Stars