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    Diversity in Tech? Even Apple’s Tim Cook Admits We’re Not There Yet

    Apple recently published statistics about the race and gender makeup of its workers within the U.S. To its credit, Apple is more transparent than most about such data, but the numbers speak for themselves. According to the survey, 70% of all Apple employees are male. In terms of race, the survey found that 55% of Apple employees are white, 15% are Asian, 11% are Hispanic and 7% are black, with the rest being multiracial or declining to respond.

    diversApple CEO Tim Cook said that he is “not satisfied with the numbers on this page. They’re not new to us, and we’ve been working hard for quite some time to improve them. We are making progress, and we’re committed to being as innovative in advancing diversity as we are in developing our products.” He also said, “Our definition of diversity goes far beyond the traditional categories of race, gender, and ethnicity. It includes personal qualities that usually go unmeasured, like sexual orientation, veteran status, and disabilities. Who we are, where we come from, and what we’ve experienced influence the way we perceive issues and solve problems. We believe in celebrating that diversity and investing in it.”

    Speaking of Cook, earlier in the summer, Simon Hobbs at CNBC said during a televised panel discussion: “I think Tim Cook is fairly open about the fact that he’s gay at the head of Apple, isn’t he?” With that, his fellow panelists were stunned into silence. “Oh, dear, was that an error? I thought he was open about it.”

    From executives at the highest levels to recent graduates, there often seems to be an unwritten “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, with workers striving for “heteronormalcy” in today’s highly competitive business market so as not to jeopardize their work. Additionally, if the norm is to be a white male, as Apple’s survey data suggests, and if networking remains key to business success, then it is little wonder that many women and people of color have found it all the more challenging to scale corporate ladders.

    diverdr2In this issue, we highlight LGBT organizations and individuals who have met such challenges and are paying it forward while serving as important role models. They stand tall on the shoulders of forebearers like British mathematician Alan Turing (1912–1954), who is widely viewed as the “father of computer science,” and yet who was persecuted for being a homosexual. Turing was only officially pardoned in the U.K. a few weeks ago.

    They also stand on the shoulders of largely unsung groundbreakers such as Karen Wickre (Editorial Director at Twitter) and Tom Rielly (Director of the TED Fellows program) who together co-founded Digital Queers in 1992. The national non-profit was one of the first to bring LGBT tech workers together, helping them to earn online presence and setting the stage for other gains. Digital Queers’ initial goal was to bring the gay rights movement into the digital age. They succeeded.

    We now have new goals to meet, however, and achieving true diversity in technology and other business sectors is high on the list. Of his own company, Cook said, “Together, we are committed to diversity…and the advancement of equality and human rights everywhere.” Hopefully we will move closer to meeting those goals, such that issues over things like tech busses and Ellis Act evictions will be a thing of the past. In the meantime, we encourage you to be proactive by supporting organizations such as Out & Equal and StartOut. Key events for these organizations are on the horizon, so we hope to see you there.