Earlier this week one of the most powerful men in the tech industry and in pop culture, Apple CEO Tim Cook, wrote an editorial for Bloomberg Businessweek publicly coming out as gay while declaring his support for equality. Had Apple been based in his home state of Alabama, however, Cook, one of the most powerful men in the tech industry and in pop culture, could’ve been fired. Alabama is one of 29 states where people can be fired for disclosing their sexual orientation.
Though the news didn’t surprise those who closely follow Apple and its CEO, his declaration puts an openly gay man at the helm of the world’s most valuable company. Cook himself has typically kept a low profile on his personal life, saying that his decision to publicly acknowledge his sexuality was done to “bring comfort to anyone who feels alone” and to “inspire people to insist on their equality.”
I’ll admit that this wasn’t an easy choice. Privacy remains important to me, and I’d like to hold on to a small amount of it. I’ve made Apple my life’s work, and I will continue to spend virtually all of my waking time focused on being the best CEO I can be. That’s what our employees deserve – and our customers, developers, shareholders, and supplier partners deserve it, too. Part of social progress is understanding that a person is not defined only by one’s sexuality, race, or gender. I’m an engineer, an uncle, a nature lover, a fitness nut, a son of the South, a sports fanatic, and many other things. I hope that people will respect my desire to focus on the things I’m best suited for and the work that brings me joy.
Cook has more recently spoken about sexual equality. He highlighted the subject in a speech at his alma mater Auburn University and established his and Apple’s support for the Employment Nondiscrimination Act in an op-ed written for The Wall Street Journal.
In June, Apple was one of several tech companies that marched in San Francisco’s 44th annual Pride parade to express support of the LGBT community. Apple later posted video of the event on its YouTube channel.
Cook originally graduated from Auburn University in 1982 and joined Apple in 1998. He was named CEO of the company in August, 2011 after late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs resigned from the position due to poor health.
Only 21 states and the District of Columbia have laws protecting people from workplace discrimination based on their sexual orientation, including California, where Apple is based.
Cook is believed to be the only openly gay CEO among the Fortune 500 list of top U.S. companies, The Wall Street Journal notes.