Baby Steps: Apple Responds to it's Diversity Problem

By Dalila-Johari Paul

Diversity talk can be a strange thing. In 2014, efforts still continue to put more color and woman-folk on the boards of the world's top companies.

And America is still failing! Companies in other countries have been making steps to advance women in top leadership, but in the U.S., "women held only 16.9 percent of corporate board seats in 2013, indicating no significant year-over-year uptick for the fourth straight year," according to Catalyst

Apple's latest statement that the company is "actively seeking out highly qualified women and individuals from minority groups to include in the pool from which board nominees are chosen," is promising but it took shareholders to up the pressure. Really? Only now? Here's a snapshot of the tech superpower's leadership.

It just makes you wonder about if any of these qualified guys sat around the table of a meeting one day and said, "Hey, there are way too many of us, dude something has got to give." Maybe, maybe not?

Last year, Cook announced Angela Ahrendts is taking over the company's newly created position of Senior Vice President of Retail and Online Stores. And on Apple's board of directors there is currently one woman,  former Avon CEO Andrea Jung.

But let's keep it real, thinking about diversity is not something that is second nature to most us. Many of us instinctively are more comfortable working with and making decisions with people that "we can relate to." And unless you were raised by Josephine Baker or Angelina Jolie, whose dinner tables may have resembled a meeting at the United Nations, you pick what you know.

Back at the office, where the rest of us dwell, those of us who've been the "only" one know the feeling of tokenism. And ladies, we are calling you out too. How many of you work at offices where there are plenty of women in positions of power of your same race or ethnicity, but not an "other?" And when it comes to brown folks, who do you choose? The Latina, the Southeast Asian or a woman from within the oh-so-diverse African Diaspora? Native Americans, East Asians, trans and disabled women we see you too.

Our point. It's great news that more companies are looked at through a microscope. Tech and other industries should be held accountable for their lack of diversity. But when will this stuff not be news? When will it become second nature that diversity on all fronts just makes common business sense. It has to become apart of corporate culture. Diversity drives diversity. Will the corporate gods please answer our prayers and change how they assess what determines "qualified." 

Yes, finding "highly qualified" people to run these companies and boards is crucial, but the stakes seem to be higher for a woman and any other. We'll be watching Apple. Get to work and thank you for responding to the criticism.

Photo: Mike Deerkoski via Creative Commons/Flickr (CC By 2.0)