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Apple is happy to use women and people of color as art, not authority

Apple’s 2018 iPhone event opened with a black woman busting her ass to ensure a white man’s success.

The introductory video is a Mission Impossible-style short featuring a young woman racing across Cupertino campus to deliver a briefcase to Apple CEO Tim Cook, who’s waiting calmly backstage before the event. She arrives, out of breath, and he opens the briefcase. Inside is the clicker for the presentation; he picks it up with reverence while the woman asks, incredulously, “The clicker?” She then stands, panting, behind the curtain as Cook walks out to enjoy a raucous round of applause.

That’s a fairly clinical breakdown of the video, but it’s true at its core, and Apple carried this theme of half-baked diversity throughout its show. It continuously used women and non-white people as background dressing, while the company itself continues to employ mostly white, male people. Apple’s most recent diversity report attests to this fact. In 2017, 68 percent of Apple employees were male and 54 percent were white; in leadership roles, this figure climbed to 71 percent male and 66 percent white. Just 3 percent of all leaders at Apple were black, and these numbers weren’t an improvement on Apple’s 2016 report, either.

Take a look at Apple’s own Leadership page. It’s almost exclusively white and mostly male — of 17 executives, just five are women. This has been Apple’s MO since its inception, considering the cult of personality that developed around Steve Jobs. Through innovative keynotes and wild stories of secrecy, genius and obsession, the company’s culture was set early on, and it had a white, male face. Maintaining this brand of C-suite only exacerbates the issue of diversity, and Apple’s unwillingness to put lower-level developers on-stage during events puts the problem under a spotlight.

Apple’s reliance on white men as keynotes is so notorious that it’s headline-worthy news when the company actually does feature non-white, non-male people at its events. Bozoma Saint John, former head of global marketing for Apple Music and iTunes, stole the show at WWDC 2016 and prompted a handful of major outlets to declare her the coolest person at the company. She left Apple in 2017.

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