by Rosemary Eng
CUPERTINO, CA — The Rev. Jesse Jackson, who has made the rounds in Silicon Valley, smacking high-tech companies on the head for lagging in minority hiring, came out singing praises at the shareholders meeting of Apple Inc., saying “your light shines in the darkness. Give a hand to Tim Cook.”
The meeting March 10 at Apple headquarters in Cupertino, CA, was a love fest of shareholders loving Apple and its products, Tim Cook loving the shareholders and his Apple team, and the Rev. Mr. Jackson beaming smiles at Cook.
Apple has put money where its diversity intentions are. Apple Inc.’s chart on race and ethnicity in its tech division shows a breakdown of 54 per cent white, 23 percent Asian, seven per cent Hispanic, six per cent black, two per cent mixed and eight per cent undeclared.
“We’re action oriented, it will change,” declared Cook.
Under a new partnership with the Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF) Cook announced, Apple has made a $40 million multi-year commitment to work with TMCF to identify, develop and harness talent from the nation’s community of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).
TMCF president and CEO Johnny C. Taylor Jr., told North Star News Today that TMCF is “acutely aware of the diversity challenges of Silicon Valley.” He said he urged Apple to “invest in our capability to find talent they don’t know exists.”
Taylor, who has a working background in law and human resources, said TMCF was not looking for philanthropy, it was proposing an “HR solution” to the problem of how to increase diversity in the tech industry.
The same proposal was made to other tech companies but “hands down, they [Apple] were the most responsive.”
Approval was dependent on a thorough strategic and investment review by Apple, which asked for extensive supporting data about HBCU schools and its graduates.
To kick off the partnership, Apple is inviting a sample of HBCU faculty to visit its Cupertino headquarters this fall, all expenses paid, so participants “get to know the Valley” and “get to know Apple,” said Taylor.
His vision is an entrepreneurial endeavour. He wants to see HBCU students starting off by jumping in to create Apple apps.
Cook also mentioned Apple’s $100 million commitment to ConnectED.
President Barack Obama announced the launch of ConnectED in 2013, saying the program’s goal is to connect 99 percent of America’s students to the Internet through high-speed broadband and high-speed wireless within 5 years.
As a corporate participant, Apple’s policy is to “provide our support to schools where at least 96 percent of the students are eligible for the free or reduced-price lunch program. Despite their economic challenges, these schools share a vision of what their students’ lives would be like with Apple technology.”
One of the 114 schools receiving an Apple ConnectED grant is Lorenzo Smith Sustainability and Technology Academy in Pembrook Township, IL, once an isolated destination for runaway and emancipated slaves. The school’s population of about 300 is 93 percent African American.
“It’s one of the oldest African-American communities in the United States. Some people may not have running water. We have our challenges. But it is a very proud community,” said Dr. Warletta Brookins, superintendent of the Pembrook School District and principal of Lorenzo Smith.
Though Lorenzo Smith was invited to apply for Apple’s ConnectED grant, approval was not easy. The school had to explain how it would use the grant, how the program would address the needs of the community, said Brookins. See all of Apple ConnectED participants https://www.apple.com/education/connectED/schools/ .
Apple states, “An Apple Education team will be assigned to support each ConnectED school, working closely with leadership to make sure that each school’s technical and educational needs are considered and their strategies are executed successfully. A professional development specialist will also help ensure that teachers are prepared to integrate technology into their curriculum.”
Besides Apple programs to nurture diversity, Cook also noted African Americans Lisa Jackson, Apple’s vice president of environmental initiatives and Denise Young Smith, vice president for worldwide human resources. Both women report directly to Cook.
In other Apple highlights, Cook, Apple Watch on his wrist, mentioned that Apple Pay “is taking off like a rocket.” Apple is working with developers of medical research apps and Apple will not be privy to the medical data, and HBO subscriptions will be available directly to Apple customers for the first time. All that aside, what shareholders were holding their breaths to hear was for Cook to say Apple is entering into a relationship with car maker, Tesla, the automotive darling of the Silicon Valley. All the coy Cook would say is that “we would love it if Tesla will pick up CarPlay,” iPhone convenience on the car dashboard.