Any company announcing its policy shortcomings is taking a risk, but has Apple made a core error of judgement in its latest diversity management statement? 

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The global technology powerhouse is taking great strides in the progression of electronics but is its recruitment stuck in the dark ages? Where once Apple was held up as a pioneer in equal opportunities – complete with a much-lauded ‘Director of Worldwide Inclusion and Diversity,’ its delay in filling the post after he was poached by Twitter, was questioned by those previously regarding Apple as a champion of diversity.

The latest chapter came when Apple shareholders voted overwhelmingly not to manually redress the boardroom balance. A policy had been tabled which would have seen them adopt an ‘accelerated recruitment policy’ to employ people of minority backgrounds specifically to adjust the company’s management demographic, presently led by 15 white men on an executive board of 18. 

Shareholders were given the opportunity to rush through the plan which would see people of certain demographics fast-tracked into leadership. But the move was spectacularly rejected. Chief executive Tim Cook, speaking to investors after the vote, admitted: “There’s much work to do on diversity across the company.” But do the actions of the board speak louder than Cook’s words to the contrary? 

Discussing the proposal for an ‘accelerated recruitment policy’ on a public platform could be seen as a progressive step. Bringing the issue before the board shows the importance Apple places on ensuring it is representative of the world in which it operates. But does the overwhelming objection to the proposal, 95% to 5%, cast light on an important debate regardless of the outcome? 

Apple’s board urged investors to vote it down, saying the measure would be ‘restrictive’. And this could be a good point for a company which can’t afford to judge, reward or discredit associates on grounds of gender or race. The white-male Apple board may in fact be representative of a wider situation across Silicon Valley and the corporate world beyond, where balance, expectations and prospects should be based in equality from grass roots up. 

Should the proposal have been passed, Apple would have been obliged to manually increase diversity at senior levels. Potentially ranking the abilities of candidates less highly than their physical attributes. Equality is something for which the business world should strive, if not lead the way. 

And while boardrooms are often still representative of those days where white middle aged men in suits called all the shots, tailoring your recruitment policy to the physical attributes of candidates with less regard to their employment credentials could be detrimental and reflect even more of a disregard for equality.

Instead, give everyone a fair platform from which to strive for their personal ambitions. By encouraging talent up through the business, nurturing and rewarding accordingly, Apple’s board rooms will come to reflect the diversity of today’s workforce and the aptitude within.

While on the face of it, Apple’s willingness to debate the proposal; and its decision to reject it; could be construed as negative, letting the story spark inevitable debate, while not overtly guiding the discussion, places Apple at the heart of the story.

It doesn’t want to patronise, unjustly award or overlook candidates by taking them solely at face value. By putting the issue on the table, Apple can assess its global recruitment while avoiding impulsive policy decisions that could alienate more people than it reassures; around the world and its own board room table.

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