This week, Tim Cook, CEO of Apple Inc., became the first Fortune 500 CEO to come of the closet. Earlier this year, another two CEOs of publicly traded – yet smaller firms came out.
In an essay published in Bloomberg BusinessWeek Cook said, “So let me be clear: I’m proud to be gay, and I consider being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me.”
Cook has neither denied nor confirmed his sexuality in the past. He has rather focused his efforts on building the Apple brand and marketing the products. He feels that being gay has given him a deeper understanding of what it means to be a minority and provided a window into the challenges that other minorities deal with everyday.
The news is unlikely to hurt Apple and its sales, especially in Canada, where people are more relaxed about the issue. It’s hard to compare Cook to other gay CEOs because there are not many to list. But, things are moving in the right direction. Just last June, Ed Clark, CEO of TD Bank, gave a speech about the importance of positive work environments for people in the LGBT community.
Cook has long been an advocate for LGBT rights, and gave speeches at Auburn University last year where he discussed his own experience with discrimination.
“I don’t consider myself an activist, but I realise how much I’ve benefited from the sacrifice of others. So 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,” he continued.
So what’s next for Apple? Will Cook’s decision to come out change things for Apple? Cook’s new openness shows Apple’s willingness to embrace diversity – positioning them even more favourably in the never-ending Silicon Valley talent wars. Being out will now allow Cook to focus on excelling at his job, rather than managing his identity.
The multinational IT corporation has been an outspoken champion for diversity since Cook succeeded Jobs as CEO. The company has trumpeted the phrase, “Inclusion inspires innovation,” as a rallying cry.
In 29 states, it is still legal to fire employees for being gay. If Apple chooses to retain Cook despite his announcement, it will be a stepping stone for other companies to embrace diversity and accept people for their talents and not their sexuality.