Apple's Tim Cook Says Anti-Gay Bias Is Bad For Business

timcookPhoto: Via The Wall Street Journal.
Today, the Senate is scheduled to vote on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), a critical piece of legislation that bans discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in the workplace. In today's Wall Street Journal, Apple CEO Tim Cook has penned a brief op-ed in support of the bill. In the piece, headlined "Workplace Equality Is Good for Business," Cook notes that Apple's own anti-discrimination policy goes well beyond the protections currently provided by law, and he encourages Congress to pass ENDA.
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It could be a personal issue for Cook, who is rumored to be gay. Valleywag's Sam Biddle wonders why Cook doesn't use this opportunity to discuss his own sexuality, to discuss his own experiences. But, why should he?
Perhaps it's because there is no room in Cook's less than 350 words of affirmative platitudes — "If our coworkers cannot be themselves in the workplace, they certainly cannot be their best selves" — to dig into his personal proclivities. Perhaps it's because the issue is greater than a single man's experience, no matter what he stands for or how far up the corporate ladder he's crawled.
Or, perhaps it's because social justice isn't really the focus of this op-ed, as Cook repeatedly emphasizes that tolerance increases productivity. "As we see it," he writes, "embracing people's individuality is a matter of basic human dignity and civil rights. It also turns out to be great for the creativity that drives our business." A self-actualized employee is a more efficient employee, explains Cook. At Apple, LGBT-identifying workers have "the comfort and confidence to do the best work of their lives."
Maybe that's the tone one must take in the conservative Journal, but that also speaks to why Cook doesn't talk about his own orientation. Morality is not at stake for CEOs — capital is. And, considering Apple's recent dispiriting Q4 earnings report, profits are surely on Cook's mind right about now.
I'm not suggesting that Cook isn't interested in equal rights. "So long as the law remains silent on the workplace rights of gay and lesbian Americans, we as a nation are effectively consenting to discrimination against them," he writes. But, it's the filter through which he speaks that turns equality into an economic interest in addition to a moral one. In that respect, he's dealing in the same abstracted terms as House Speaker John Boehner, who opposes the bill because he believes it will lead to frivolous lawsuits and cause a financial burden on businesses.
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And, sure, something can be morally right and also profitable. But, business should always be last on the list of things that can dictate our social policy. (Wall Street Journal)
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