When you're reading about America's leading tech companies, this is no longer even a startling headline: "[Company]'s employment statistics reveal a diversity problem." It's the same state of affairs that's been seen at Google, Twitter and Facebook, among others — sky-high levels of white, male employees, especially in corporate management positions, while women and minorities lag behind. Well, there's another big tech titan on that list: Apple CEO Tim Cook promised to fix Apple's diversity problem Wednesday, admitting he isn't "satisfied" with the status quo.
Cook wrote a public letter to explain the dispiriting figures, which are actually slightly better than at competitors like Google and Facebook, but not significantly so. As USA Today noted, this could be the result of greater diversity in hiring for Apple's retail locations — minority representation has a tendency to drop off when you move from lower-level jobs into management, and the retail business is a feature that Facebook and Twitter, for example, simply don't have.
Regardless of the reason, it's a deeply troubling landscape for minorities looking to get into the tech sector. It's not hard to see why Cook felt the need to speak out, as detailed by The Independent.
Let me say up front: As CEO, 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.
Thanks to the work of USA Today's Julie Snider, who compiled diversity data from seven major tech companies, Apple included, the sad state of affairs is plain for all to see. And Cook is on to something — he shouldn't be satisfied with this, unless he (or any of these companies) believes that merit and ability break down strikingly along racial and gender lines. I'm sure he doesn't, but absent that understanding, it's hard to see how anybody could be satisfied with this.
Google Vs. Apple
As you can see, the Apple workforce is 70 percent male overall, and 55 percent white. Asian employees are the second-highest racial group represented, which is pretty common across many of these tech companies, though Apple employs less than the other six companies Snider graphed out — Google's workforce, for example, is 30 percent Asian, compared to Apple's 15 percent.
Due to their woefully low levels of Hispanic and black employees, however, Google actually end up being less diverse than Apple manages, with a 61 percent white workforce.
Of all the major tech companies, it's actually Yahoo that has the lowest percentage of white employees, at an even 50 percent. Like Google, however, this is basically solely the result of the Asian community thriving in their workforce — at 39 percent — while the traditionally underrepresented black and Hispanic demographics are just as rare as anywhere else, at 2 and 3 percent, respectively.
But Then There's eBay
You have to hand it to eBay on gender grounds, however — while there's not an equivalence between their male and female representation, they come closer to narrowing that gap than Apple, Facebook, Yahoo, Google, LinkedIn or Twitter do. Of eBay's entire workforce, 42 percent are female.
As for Cook's claim that Apple is working on this, this is a good sign — better to meet criticism head-on that try to shy away from it, surely — but it does raise the question of how companies slide so easily into these nearly identical patterns of predominantly white, male employees. It's pretty clear that the so-called "playing field" in America really isn't level for countless minority groups, and stereotypical assumptions about their aptitudes could play a role.
It's All Up To Tim Cook
But Cook, as the CEO of what's probably the world's most iconic tech brand, is running the show. If he wants to take proactive steps to remedy this, he can, even if it might take a little while to see the impact. In other words, watch this space. It'll be interesting to see, in the months and years from now, if he makes good on this assurance.
Images: Getty Images (2); Julie Snider/USA Today (2)