In 1997, the Apple Think Different campaign featured a commercial titled, The Crazy Ones, which included footage of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In 2014, DiversityInc reported the technologically advanced company was terribly outdated in regards to the exclusivity of its board of directors. Two major shareholders pressured Apple to update its Nominating and Corporate Governance Committee Charter and include the word “actively” in the revisions. The statement now reads, “The Committee is committed to actively seeking out highly qualified women and individuals from minority groups to include in the pool from which Board nominees are chosen.” Apparently, it’s taken a little extra time for Apple to think different.
While the updated mission verbiage may seem insignificant at first blush—especially to the culturally clueless—it actually underscores the true challenge of diversity. That is, shit won’t happen unless change is actively pursued. For brands like Apple, as well as the advertising agencies that conspire with them, diversity remains a passive affair.
Corporations and agencies declare they are Equal Opportunity Employers with non-discriminatory hiring practices. Okay, but that’s nothing special to brag about—it’s the law. You’re supposed to be an EOE and not discriminate. Those are the minimum requirements for running a business with employees.
Ad agencies are most guilty of engaging in passive initiatives to feign interest in inclusion, including launching diversity committees, naming Chief Diversity Officers, establishing minority internships, inventing minority youth outreach programs, building minority high schools, bankrolling minority scholarships, holding minority events and sponsoring ADCOLOR®. While these things are arguably well-intentioned maneuvers, they represent delegating diversity at best—and delaying, deferring and disabling diversity at least.
For diversity to be realized in the advertising industry, executives with hiring authority must personally and actively seek out highly qualified women and individuals from minority groups. More importantly, they must actively hire such candidates. Recruiting at the high school, grade school and pre-school levels is bullshit. Believing minorities are not aware of and/or interested in the opportunities is bigger bullshit. Insisting there are no qualified candidates is total bullshit.
The truth is, Madison Avenue has a history of actively denying access to minorities. Creating change will require actively promoting inclusion and working toward progress.
Oh, and it would be nice if clients like Apple would actively demand that their ad agencies get with the program too. Otherwise, it’s all just crazy talk.
Apple’s Plan to Improve Its Diversity
By Albert Lin
Facing criticism from two major shareholders, Apple recently added language to its Nominating and Corporate Governance Committee Charter pledging to “actively” pursue women and members of underrepresented groups for its board of directors, according to a report on Bloomberg.com.
The exact language reads: “The Committee is committed to actively seeking out highly qualified women and individuals from minority groups to include in the pool from which Board nominees are chosen.”
Apple’s eight-member board includes just one woman—Andrea Jung, who is Asian and the only member of the board from an underrepresented group—alongside seven white men all over the age of 50. Additionally, all of the company’s top executives are white men over age 40. (Angela Ahrendts will become Apple’s top-ranking woman when she takes over as Senior Vice President of Retail and Online Stores sometime this spring.)
The new language came about as the result of objections from shareholders Trillium Asset Management and The Sustainability Group over the lack of diversity in Apple’s leadership ranks. Executives from Trillium and Sustainability had about five meetings with Apple’s investor-relations team and had threatened to bring the issue to a vote at a Feb. 28 shareholder meeting. They dropped their objections after Apple agreed to add the language—which had been in the company’s proxy for several years—to its charter, even though the company did not make any specific promises.
“There is a general problem with diversity at the highest echelon of Apple,” Jonas Kron, Director of Shareholder Advocacy at Trillium, told Bloomberg. “It’s all white men.”
Added Larisa Ruoff, who is in charge of Shareholder Advocacy & Corporate Engagement at The Sustainability Group: “This is an issue the company is taking seriously, and is discussed at the highest levels of the company.”
Apple has never participated in the DiversityInc Top 50 survey and was one of six companies that refused to release their EEO-1 data despite a Freedom of Information request from the San Jose Mercury News, saying that the information would cause “commercial harm.” As a result, the diversity of its workforce and its management is unknown. However, Google (another of the six companies) searches for Black, Latino and Asian Apple executives turn up nothing.