While Tim Cook’s proud and public declaration didn’t exactly come as a shock to Silicon Valley, equality advocates are saying the CEO’s statement could help change attitudes in workplaces all around the world.
As Steve Job’s successor and head-honcho at Apple, 53-year-old Cook is now the highest-profile U.S business executive to publically acknowledge that he’s gay. In fact, more major league athletes have come out than American CEOs and, despite 3.4 per cent of Americans identifying as something other than straight; he is the only openly gay CEO in the Fortune 1,000.
Megan Smith, a lesbian who was once a top executive at Google and is now the U.S. government’s chief technology officer, predicted; “people will look back at this time not only for the extraordinary technological innovations that keep coming, but also for great shifts in civil rights and inclusion of talent across our world. Tim is a big part of both of these important movements.”
It’s hoped that Cook’s wide-reaching influence will help put an end to discriminatory attitudes in the workplace. Worryingly, 29 U.S states still don’t protect employees from being fired for their sexual orientation, including Cook’s conservative home state of Alabama. Just this week, he challenged officials in the southern state to improve the legal rights of their LGBT community.
In Silicon Valley, stigma is practically non-existent; “It’s an engineering-based industry,” explains author Michael Malone, “either the person does the job or they don’t. And if they don’t, they’re gone. And if they do the job, nobody really cares about their personal life.”
It’s a viewpoint that the majority of Canadian offices will likely share but the same can’t be said for some of the more conservative countries that do business with Apple.
“The global reaction to this is going to be very interesting,” said Todd Sears, founder of gay-rights group Out Leadership, “will Singapore arrest Tim Cook the next time he is there?”
Apple enjoys almost unrivalled success around the world and Cook’s public revelation has the power to make people rethink their attitudes towards LGBT workers. One of the world’s most successful men now identifies as a homosexual and, in the worlds of Todd Sears, “It is going to be hard being a homophobe while holding an iPhone now.”