Apple CEO Tim Cook just created shockwaves and it wasn’t for an innovative new Apple product. As successor to Steve Jobs, Tim Cook helms one of the most wildly influential, admired and valuable brands on earth. He’s never denied being a gay man, but he has never publicly proclaimed his sexuality. On Thursday, Tim Cook did just that, not only stating he was gay, but asserting the pride he feels as a gay man. He said, “I consider being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me.”
Tim Cook, CEO of Apple. Photo Credit: Apple
In Bloomberg Businessweek Tim evoked Martin Luther King and the imperative to do for others, “I’ve come to realize that my desire for personal privacy has been holding me back from doing something more important.”
The thrust of Tim’s message revolved around frustration with the continued discrimination of LGBT persons in the tech industry and in the corporate world at large. Cook said, “Being gay has given me a deeper understanding of what it means to be in the minority and provided a window into the challenges that people in other minority groups deal with every day.”
As Tim mentioned in the essay, we’re on our way to marriage equality in this country. In the last few weeks there has been a surge in states that allow same-sex marriage. Now 32 states allow same-sex marriage compared to 19 states just a month ago. The cascading successes of the marriage equality movement may make it seem like the worst discrimination of LGBT persons is behind us. But as Tim made clear, being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender at work can still get you fired in 29 US states. That includes several states that now allow same-sex marriage.
His announcement was met with enthusiastic praise from leaders across the tech industry and from workers and citizens of all stripes. Much of the praise evoked deep hope that Tim’s announcement would create a major breakthrough in the way other brands and organizations rally for open and safe workplace communities.
Openness and inclusiveness can be tough to come by in the business world. 83 percent of gay, lesbian and bisexual people hide aspects of their identity at work, according to a Deloitte report, referenced by The New York Times on Thursday.
“If hearing that the CEO of Apple is gay can help someone struggling to come to terms with who he or she is, or bring comfort to anyone who feels alone, or inspire people to insist on their equality, then it’s worth the trade-off with my own privacy,” Tim said.
At Ben & Jerry’s we applaud Tim Cook’s announcement. Tim adds a powerful voice to the chorus of brands and organizations like Ben & Jerry’s that have been advocating for workplaces where people are free to be themselves and talent is rewarded regardless of whom we choose to love. Recent polling in the United States shows that a strong majority of voters favor legal protections for LGBT workers. Now let’s carry Tim’s inspiration message forward at work, in our communities, and at the ballot box.
You can read Tim’s full essay here.
If you’re an LGBT employee or just interested in working towards an open and inclusive workplace for all here are some resources: