Just ahead of Apple's big Worldwide Developers Conference, CEO Tim Cook has spoken out about the company's commitment to diversity and hinted that the WWDC keynote will finally include some level of female presence. Speaking after making an appearance at a Sunday orientation session for Apple's WWDC scholarship program, Cook tells Mashable that diversity is "the future of our company."
"I think the most diverse group will produce the best product, I firmly believe that," says Cook, who believes there has been a lack of female role models in the tech industry. "I think in general we haven't done enough to reach out and show young women that it's cool to do it and how much fun it can be." Cook made the business case for diversity in a 2013 Wall Street Journal op-ed, saying that "when people feel valued for who they are, they have the comfort and confidence to do the best work of their lives."
"You'll see a change" at WWDC, says Cook
When Mashable inquired about the lack of women on stage at Apple events, Cook replied "I totally agree with you. You'll see a change tomorrow." The only female member of Apple's senior leadership team is Angela Ahrendts, who stepped down as Burberry CEO to become the company's retail SVP in 2013. The other female executives are Lisa Jackson, VP of environmental initiatives, and Denise Young Smith, VP of human resources.
Apple released its own diversity report last year, revealing that its 98,000-strong worldwide workforce is 70 percent male and 55 percent white. "I'm not satisfied with the numbers on this page," Cook said at the time. "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." Cook now says Apple is focusing on outreach efforts targeting female students, as well as working within historically black colleges in an effort to diversify its potential pool of hires.
Apple donated over $50 million to the National Center for Women and Information Technology and the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, a non-profit that supports students in historically black higher education institutions, last year. "The problem, as Dr. King said, is 'the appalling silence of the good people,'" says Cook. "I try to look at myself in the mirror and ask myself [if] I'm doing enough. And if the answer is no, I try to do something more. And sometimes you do things that don't work and sometimes you do things that do work. Somehow we've got to get enough people to believe how important it is, and see how wrong it is not doing it."
Apple's WWDC keynote starts at 1PM ET today, Monday June 8th — we'll be providing live coverage, and here's what we're expecting.