Apple CEO Tim Cook, 53, came out Thursday in a revealing opinion piece for Bloomberg Businessweek titled, “Tim Cook Speaks Up.” The announcement makes him the highest-profile chief executive to come out, according to USA Today.
“Being gay has given me a deeper understanding of what it means to be in the minority and provided a window into the challenges that people in other minority groups deal with every day,” he wrote. “It’s made me more empathetic, which has led to a richer life. It’s been tough and uncomfortable at times, but it has given me the confidence to be myself, to follow my own path, and to rise above adversity and bigotry. It’s also given me the skin of a rhinoceros, which comes in handy when you’re the CEO of Apple.”
According to his biography on Apple.com, Cook was named CEO of Apple on August 2011. Before that, Cook wore the hat of Apple’s Chief Operating Officer and was responsible for all of the company’s worldwide sales and operations, including end-to-end management of Apple’s supply chain, sales activities, and service and support in all markets and countries. He also headed Apple’s Macintosh division and played a key role in the continued development of strategic reseller and supplier relationships, ensuring flexibility in response to an increasingly demanding marketplace.
Prior to joining Apple, Cook was vice president of Corporate Materials for Compaq and was responsible for procuring and managing all of Compaq’s product inventory. Previous to his work at Compaq, Cook was the chief operating officer of the Reseller Division at Intelligent Electronics.
Cook’s personal disclosure comes only a handful of days after his public shaming of his home state of Alabama for not speeding up the marriage equality process.
“[Alabama is] still too slow on equality for the LGBT community. Under the law, citizens of Alabama can still be fired based on their sexual orientation. We can’t change the past, but we can learn from it and we can create a different future,” he told the Associated Press.
The Huffington Post reported Thursday:
Cook’s sexuality has been a point of speculation for quite some time. Gawker reported that Cook was gay back in 2011 before he succeeded Steve Jobs.
Since then, Cook himself has seemingly dropped hints about his sexuality. Last year, during a speech about human rights at Auburn University Cook discussed the discrimination he faced as a young person, according to ValleyWag.
“Since these early days, I have seen and have experienced many types of discrimination and all of them were rooted in the fear of people that were different than the majority,” he said.
Cook pulled back the covers a bit more when he reiterated his reasoning for coming clean.
“If hearing that the CEO of Apple is gay can help someone struggling to come to terms with who he or she is, or bring comfort to anyone who feels alone, or inspire people to insist on their equality, then it’s worth the trade-off with my own privacy,” he wrote.
The Human Rights Campaign (HRC)responded positively to Thursday’s acknowledgement, writing in a statement that “Cook and Apple were already leaders in advocating for LGBT equality and have for years promoted inclusive workplaces practices within the corporation, consistently scoring a perfect 100 on the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Corporate Equality Index. They have also lobbied for legal solutions to discrimination like marriage equality and workplace non-discrimination laws at the federal level.”
HRC President Chad Griffin offered, “Tim Cook’s announcement today will save countless lives. He has always been a role model, but today millions across the globe will draw inspiration from a different aspect of his life. Tim Cook is proof that LGBT young people can dream as big as their minds will allow them to, whether they want to be doctors, a U.S. Senator, or even CEO of the world’s biggest brand. Apple has consistently fought for the LGBT community and we’re incredibly grateful that today’s announcement will bring even more to their work for equality.”
GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis applauded Cook’s decision to publicly come out.
“As a person of faith, a son of the south, and the CEO of one of the world’s largest companies, Tim Cook’s story reaches from church pews to the C-Suite, sending a powerful message to countless people that anyone can live the life they love,” Ellis said.
John Roberts, a partner at Denver Investments and founder of the Workplace Equality Index said of the announcement, “Tim Cook’s eloquent statement reinforces what we call the ‘return on equality.’ His character and truthfulness are traits that tend to shape corporate performance, especially among equality-minded corporations like Apple. Put simply, Cook’s example mirrors Apple’s own commitment to global equality.”
Roberts also noted that Apple is among the 164 U.S. companies that appear in the Workplace Equality Index, an innovative stock market benchmark that educates investors about the performance of corporate leaders in LGBT equality.
“For years, I’ve been open with many people about my sexual orientation. Plenty of colleagues at Apple know I’m gay, and it doesn’t seem to make a difference in the way they treat me,” Cook wrote in the essay. “Of course, I’ve had the good fortune to work at a company that loves creativity and innovation and knows it can only flourish when you embrace people’s differences. Not everyone is so lucky.”
As for the naysayers, Cook shared, “While I have never denied my sexuality, I haven’t publicly acknowledged it either, until now. So let me be clear: I’m proud to be gay, and I consider being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me.”
In the fight for equality, Cook says he’s on the right side of history.
“We pave the sunlit path toward justice together, brick by brick. This is my brick,” he wrote.