Despite an outward commitment to diversity, when push comes to shove, Apple's white- and male-dominated leadership isn't willing to give up its seats for women or people of color. As it turns out, this type of thinking applies to the company as a whole.
Diversity is a big topic in the tech industry, and for good reason. The industry that is supposed to represent the “future” of the country – the technologies transforming our day-to-day lives – is touted as an industry in which opportunities are due to merit. These companies are not tied to the old corporate structures of the past. So, it defies logic that the tech industry is actually one of the least diverse in America: overwhelmingly white and male, and severally under-representing African-Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans.
This is why, for years, tech companies, which outwardly believed in openness, refused to share demographic data. In 2014 and 2015, public pressure forced many of them to disclose this information. What we found out was shocking and, yet, unsurprising. The industry of the future looked a lot like the industries of the past – and I mean the distant past.
At first glace, Apple's figures don't look so bad, when compared to other tech giants: 31 percent female and only 74 percent white/Asian. But there's a catch. These figures include staff who work in retail – think of the now-ubiquitous Apple Stores in the centers of big cities all across the U.S. Those low-wage jobs are open to diverse applicants. Remove retail, and the picture becomes a lot bleaker. Tech jobs at Apple are only 22 percent female and an astounding 88 percent white or Asian. The predominantly white and male board is, in fact, very representative of Apple as a whole.
That was why Antonio Avian Maldonado II, who holds 600 shares of Apple, submitted a proposal urging the company to move faster to diversify senior management and its board of directors. According to a recent Huffington Post report, there is just one African-American man and two women on Apple's eight-person board, and one African-American woman and two white women on its 18-member executive team. Even Asians – who are over-represented in Apple's tech staff -- can't break the glass ceiling.
Here's the worst part. Apple not only voted down the proposal, but thinks everything is fine – saying in a statement that the company “has demonstrated to shareholders its commitment to inclusion and diversity, which are core values for our company."
I, for one, do not use Apple products, and after this callous action by the board, I see no reason to give the company my hard-earned money. Two years after diversity in the tech industry made headlines across the country, it is clear that Apple, Google, Twitter and the multitudes of other tech companies need to do a whole lot more before their staff resembles their users.
Image credit: Joe Ravi via Wikipedia
Nithin Coca is a freelance journalist who focuses on environmental, social, and economic issues around the world, with specific expertise in Southeast Asia.