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Report: Apple is a sexist, toxic work environment

Engadget Engadget 15/09/2016 Nathan Ingraham
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Apple made improving its employee diversity a focal point in recent years -- but the company is still dominated by men. Women only make up 32 percent of its total workforce, and that imbalance has reportedly manifested itself in some very ugly ways. Mic has obtained a number of emails from female Apple employees and prospective employees, and their comments paint a picture of a sexist workplace in which women face discrimination, harassment and a "toxic" work environment.

Some of the complaints Mic reported on include a female engineer whose "male-dominated" team made jokes about an office intruder coming to "rape everyone." The jokes caused that engineer to email CEO Tim Cook, who did not respond to her complaint. Another female employee said she was in a meeting with a dozen other men and no other women; the conversation turned to how all of their wives and significant others were nags, a conversation that the team's manager let go on unchecked. This employee was also told to "smile more" by a male area manager.

Yet another employee said she feared retaliation from her co-workers for reporting their behavior. Someone eventually came to investigate her concerns and even admitted that she was in a hostile work environment. But the choices she was given amounted to staying in her current position or being demoted to a job that paid less on a different team. The employee took the demotion.

She also told Mic that a number of employees quit, citing a "white, male, Christian, misogynist, sexist environment" -- and those employees were not given exit interviews because they company didn't think their departure was a concern. "Their departure is being written up as a positive attrition," she said.

These concerns weren't confined to female employees, either. Mic spoke with a male former Apple employee who had complained about the toxic environment to multiple people at the company, including Cook. This employee said that his co-workers would say he was having his "man period" as a way of insinuating he was overly emotional and unreliable. I would consistently be referred to as an emotional man that resembled having the qualities of a woman," he wrote in an email obtained by Mic. "Any male can tell you that being referred to as a woman is an insinuation that you are not strong enough or stable enough to handle the difficulties of life or work in the way a man can."

Yet another female employee says that she was never given the opportunity to apply for two advanced positioned that she was "more than qualified for." The positions were never posted externally; instead, her male boss selected two men to fill them. This employee filed a complaint with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing on August 4th to investigate how Apple treats women in leadership positions; she also emailed Cook about her concerns without a response.

An Apple spokesperson gave Mic a statement in which it said it takes these types of complaints "very seriously" and that it thoroughly investigates each situation, but that it doesn't discuss specific incidents for the sake of privacy. If the problem is indeed as widespread as this report makes it appear, though, we wouldn't be surprised to hear the company make a more declarative statement sooner than later.


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