Leaked Emails Say Apple Has ‘Sexist’ and ‘Toxic’ Work Environment
Apple employees are said to have leaked emails over allegations that the company has a “sexist” and “toxic” work environment.
Approximately a dozen unidentified female Apple employees claim to have been the victims of a “very toxic atmosphere” at Apple that include jokes about rape and gender stereotypes by male workers who allegedly conveyed feelings that women are “nags,” according to emails and interviews reportedly obtained by Mic’s Melanie Ehrenkranz. One woman, using the pseudonym Danielle in the interview with Mic, said that some of her male co-workers joked about the possibility of a man entering their office to “rape everybody.” After repeated attempts to file formal complaints about the “toxic” work environment with managers, Danielle is said to have escalated the concerns to Apple CEO Tim Cook.
“Rape jokes in work chat is basically where I completely draw the limit,” she wrote to Cook, according to Mic, which obtained the email from Danielle. “I do not feel safe at a company that tolerates individuals who make rape jokes.”
Danielle says Cook never responded to the concern.
However, her experience might not have been unique. Ehrenkranz says she obtained more than 50 pages of emails between approximately one dozen female Apple employees discussing “stories of discrimination and workplace harassment.” The emails come from both current and former Apple employees, the report says.
While Apple (AAPL) did not respond to a Fortune request for comment on the Mic piece, it highlights a potential problem for Apple as it looks to instill change and improve the lives of all that it serves. It’s also the latest in a string of complaints of late that have questioned just how diverse Apple truly is.
Last week, Ehrenkranz published a story on Mic noting that Apple’s major iPhone 7 press event last week lacked diversity. She highlighted that men were given about 99 minutes to speak during the event, while women had only eight minutes on stage. Apple subsequently responded to the claims in an email that a spokesman had hoped would remain off the record and therefore not go public. However, Ehrenkranz argued that because she didn’t agree to an off-the-record conversation, the comments could (and should) be published. Ehrenkranz subsequently published the email this week.
“There was a lot of diversity on that stage that you don’t recognize,” the unidentified Apple spokesman reportedly said in the email to Ehrenkranz. “Unrecognized by you was the fact that we had a gay man, two African-Americans (Instagram and Nike), a Canadian and a British woman, Hannah Catmur.”
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The Apple representative was apparently referring to CEO Tim Cook, who is openly gay, in his email. The two African-American men he mentioned, Nike brand president Trevor Edwards and Instagram head of design Ian Spalter, don’t work at Apple.
To be sure, the technology industry in general has a diversity problem, and many of its top companies have instituted programs designed to hire more women and minorities and ensure they have better opportunities to reach top-tier positions. However, as one of the biggest and most recognizable technology companies in the world, Apple is often viewed as one that should take the lead on addressing the industry’s broader diversity problem.
For its part, Apple has long held that it’s a champion of diversity and each year issues a Diversity Report to shed light on how it’s doing at bringing more women and minorities into management positions. Last month, Apple shared its diversity report, which showed that while Apple has increased the number of women it’s hired, its leadership team includes 67% of people who are white, compared to 63% in its prior-year diversity report. The company’s critics, including Ehrenkranz, have charged Apple with being “predominantly male and white.”
However, what Ehrenkranz describes in the emails she reportedly obtained is about more than just bringing women and minorities into the workforce; it’s about the way they are treated once they get to Cupertino.
Women who Ehrenkranz spoke with say that managers ignored complaints about misogyny they had experienced, including one woman who was told by an Area Manager to “smile” when she walked past. The woman called the incident a “small thing,” but added that it’s “one of the most commonly reported forms of subtle sexism.”
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Another woman, using the pseudonym Claire, says that her complaints of harassment were followed up by Apple investigators who acknowledged she was indeed working in a “hostile” environment. She was then given two options: stay in the job or take a demotion, according to the report. Others who spoke to Mic say that they had been looked over in favor of male colleagues.
“White male privilege runs unchecked,” a woman says in the email string obtained by Mic.
Even some men are said to have been the victim of harassment at Apple, with one being told on several occasions that he was on his “Man Period,” according to the report.
Looking ahead, it’s unclear how, or even if, Apple will respond to the claims. However, on Aug. 4, a woman using the pseudonym Amanda told Mic that she had filed a complaint with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing. She hopes the agency, along with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, will investigate Apple’s treatment of women.
The agency did not immediately respond to a Fortune request for comment on the complaint.