The tech industry has a long and troubled history when it comes to the inclusion of women and minorities, particularly at corporate leadership levels. Apple’s Human Resources department collected and published employee data in early August, revealing that about 28 percent of Apple’s global sector leaders are female. According to New York Times tech reporter Brian Chen, Apple’s numbers aren’t exactly surprising – they closely resemble statistics published by other tech companies regarding staff diversity. However, it looks like Tim Cook hopes to shake these numbers up. On August 15, Apple updated their leadership pages to reflect five new executive positions, including two female VPs.
New Additions to the Leadership Team
Denise Young Smith is the new VP of Worldwide Human Resources, and Lisa Jackson joins Apple as the VP of Environmental Initiatives. These two are joining Apple’s executive team, which previously had been all-male until Angela Ahrendts became the Senior VP of Retail and Online Stores at the beginning of May 2014. Smith has been working for Apple since 1997, and she joins the executive team as an internal hire. Prior to her appointment as the VP of Worldwide Human Resources, she worked as a leader for Apple’s Worldwide Operations and Corporate Employee Relations department. Jackson was hired after serving as a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator, appointed by President Barack Obama in 2009.
Tim Cook’s Statements
Apple’s updated diversity webpage is noteworthy for several reasons. CEO Tim Cook voiced his disapproval of Apple’s own current employee statistics, stating, “I’m 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.” Cook has been speaking out increasingly regarding diversity awareness, speaking at the International Quality of Life Awards ceremony about human rights and marching with Apple corporate employees at the 2014 San Francisco Pride Parade (pictures from this event are also included on Apple’s official diversity webpage).
As Apple becomes increasingly transparent and outspoken regarding leadership hires and overall employee demographics, we might see other tech companies follow suit in efforts to close the gender gap.
According to statistics published by the Harvard Business Review, women account for less than 15% of executive officer roles at Fortune 500 companies. While company diversity might be encouraged at lower levels within a company, women often face a bottleneck of discouraging factors as they strive for leadership positions at the executive level. And the pay discrepancies at these levels can be vast – a University of Illinois study collected salary information from over 7,000 executives at 831 publicly traded U.S. organizations and found that women earned 42% less than men between the years of 1998 to 2005.
Apple’s updated executive team has the potential of raising the bar when it comes to increased diversity in the tech world. Tim Cook is certainly taking steps to challenge Apple’s current employee trends. The increased presence of women at the executive level creates positive role models for aspiring leaders.