Apple CEO Tim Cook says diversity leads to better products

11 Nov 2015

Apple CEO Tim Cook

In response to students’ questions in Dublin today (11 November) about diversity and leadership, Apple CEO Tim Cook said companies that foster diversity produce better products.

Cook was speaking with students at Trinity College in Dublin, where he was presented with an honorary patronage by the University Philosophical Society (the Phil) at a special ceremony.

Earlier today it emerged that Apple was creating 1,000 new jobs in Cork, bringing its total workforce in the city from 5,000 today to more than 6,000 in the next year-and-a-half.

Cook said the Cork plant, which was set up 35 years ago, is Apple’s largest facility in Europe. “It is also one of our most diverse offices on the planet, operationally and culturally, with people from more than 80 countries.”

He said diversity is at the heart and soul of Apple today.

“I feel very strongly that the better products we produce the more diverse the team that produces them,” he said. “A diverse team is more than academic, they bring life experience.

“I strongly believe that the best companies in the future will be the most diverse, will embrace inclusion and diversity, and I hope it becomes a part of the history of the business world.”

He qualified his point by looking around the room of the Lecture Hall at Trinity College Dublin, which is festooned with paintings of eminent scholars of the last few hundred years.

‘I hope this is our history and not our future’

Asking why there weren’t paintings of women, aside from a single painting of Queen Elizabeth I who founded Trinity in 1592, Cook mused: “I hope this is our history and not our future.”

He said that Apple traditionally would have recruited students from the top universities in the US like Stanford and Berkeley but has changed to include many more universities that would produce a more diverse range of graduates.

“You have to open your aperture and you cannot select from the same universities. Many universities have their own diversity issues.

“In the US, 30pc to 40pc of black candidates go to black universities.”

Cook said a conscious decision was made within Apple to change tack and to hire from a more diverse range of universities.

‘Companies that are just saying they are trying to improve diversity but are not thinking through their talent pools, are not making a change’

“It’s like the Einstein definition of insanity, doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. We realised we needed to open our aperture to include interns from other colleges and we are doing much more extensive recruiting.”

On the issue of women in technology, Cook said that the discrepancy in the numbers of male vs female graduates in computer science and engineering was appalling.

“Why is that? It’s because we have done a terrible job of making computer science and engineering sound interesting at a junior high level, for example. We are trying to do things like coding camps and so forth to express the things they can do by learning how to code.

“Companies that are just saying they are trying to improve diversity but are not thinking through their talent pools are not making a change.”

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years