Short version: Apple’s D&I efforts are pure fiction and fabrication, smoke and mirrors. And Microsoft, Facebook, Google et al aren’t much better.
I have focussed on Apple because they are the ones currently shouting about their latest D&I initiatives as if it’s the second coming. It’s anything but.
In 2016 Apple’s board of directors rejected a new diversity proposal calling it “unduly burdensome” and not necessary because #Apple has demonstrated to shareholders its commitment to #inclusion and #diversity, which are core values for our company”. Like hell they have.
At the time, Apple cited its on-going diversity efforts including providing scholarships for black students attending historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs); giving iPads, MacBooks and Apple TVs to under-served US schools, and sponsoring the Grace Hopper conference for women in technology.
The above, is a great example of completely toothless initiatives that do absolutely nothing to move the dial at an operational level. They are ‘nice to have’ community giveaways that probably represent about 5% of Apple’s annual loo roll budget.
So now here we are in 2021, exactly 5 years later, and what’s changed? Basically nothing.
Let’s start with their Exec Committee, where the real operational power of a business lies….
Exco: In 2016: Of 18 positions, 3 were women, 2 of whom are black. The rest are white men.
5 years later in 2021: The Exec Committee now has 17 positions, 4 are women, 1 of whom is a PoC (another is Chinese, but she is VP & MD of their Greater China Operations so I’m awarding no points there!)
And what about The Board?
In 2016 there were 8 Board positions, 2 were women, and 1 of them was a black man.5 years later in 2021: 8 positions still. 3 are women and 1 is a black man.
So what are they doing now in 2021? (spoiler alert: sweet FA, but worse yet, they are pretending to be doing ground-breaking work in this space).
This month Apple announced “a set of major new projects as part of its $100 million Racial Equity and Justice Initiative (REJI) to help dismantle systemic barriers to opportunity and combat injustices faced by communities of color”. Sounds like a lot of money right? $100 million. Well that’s until you realise that their CEO, Tim Cook, gets paid $133.7 million a year!! So what they’re really saying is: we value this entire initiative, that we profess to care about so passionately, at less than we pay our CEO each year.
Speaking of their CEO, here is what he had to say about Apple’s new 2021 Diversity & Inclusion initiatives:
“We are all accountable to the urgent work of building a more just, more equitable world – and these new projects send a clear signal of Apple’s enduring commitment,”
– Tim Cook, CEO of Apple.
They do nothing of the sort. External donations to ‘worthy causes’ will fix nothing in Apple’s rotten core. And, even if external funding was the answer – which it isn’t – the funding itself is pathetic in its scope, amounts and timelines.
Take this part of the $100M commitment for example: “Apple will also invest $10M in venture capital funding for companies with diverse founders. The tech company has partnered with an early-stage VC firm, Harlem Capital, to invest in nearly 1000 founders from underrepresented backgrounds. This funding will be injected over the next two decades”. Let’s break this down a bit. So, if distributed equally among the 1000 founders, that would be $10k each – which is better than a slap in the face, although it sort of feels like one. And then look at the time horizons here. “The next TWO decades”. 20 years!!! So half a million a year over 20 years distributed to 1,000 founders.
To give you some additional context: Apple’s reported net income was $57.41 billion in 2020, the second highest net income to date. Apple’s global revenue rose to $274.52 billion in that same year”. So this means the full $100M commitment (spread over many years) represents 0.17% of Apple’s ANNUAL reported net income.
That is what we are dealing with here. And bear in mind, this is their newest initiative, supposedly ‘inspired’ by the Black Lives Matter movement. And it’s nothing but empty words and window-dressing.
The time has come for real change, and this is not it.