Apple employees carry rainbow flags as they march in the San Francisco Gay Pride Festival in California June 29, 2014 | REUTERS/Noah Berger
Apple is a company that has for decades inspired millions of young people to design the best they can design, to focus on the detail and create beautiful and functional products. Apple has stood at the forefront of amazing product design and changed the way humans interact with technology through its own passion for design.
I, like many other people have watched on at Apple for years and looked up to the brand as a role model. Many years ago I would write school essays about Apple if I could and in my mid-teens decided that it was such a passion that I should help in the spread of Apple’s message by setting up this very website. I wouldn’t be surprised that if for the past 15 years I’ve said or read the word Apple dozens of times a day. But most notably Apple has shaped me as a person, it has shaped the way I perceive the world, the way I enjoy the world, and how I choose to live.
Recently Apple has climbed to be one of the most successful corporations the world has ever known, both financially and in terms of its product portfolio. With much glee I’ve watched on as you have steered Apple into an era of transparency and thoughtfulness—but most importantly, an era of equality and diversity.
Just last week Apple published, for the first time, equality and diversity figures from across its workforce. Before that a video was posted on the company’s website where hundreds of Apple employees were seen marching through the streets of San Francisco for Pride. You clearly outline your belief that “inclusion inspires innovation”, a catchy phrase but a message with strong responsibilities attached.
Don’t get me wrong, Apple leading the pack and publishing equality data is extremely welcome. Remember, Apple is a beacon to millions of young people—as it was to me. But equality and diversity is about more than just race, ethnicity, and gender. Sexual orientation is an important aspect in understanding a workforce, and gender is not binary. So whilst you’ve said you’re committed to the advancement of equality and human rights everywhere, I’d also encourage you to expand the understanding across Apple.
But this is not what I write to you about. Job listings would suggest you’re due to open an Apple Store in the United Arab Emirates—a country with an abhorrent track record of human rights. UAE is a country where women are required to ask for the right to travel without a male guardian’s permission, where women are refused the right to education and the right to drive any motor vehicle. A country where a women who has been raped can be jailed, and often are.
In the UAE LGBT people are effectively threatened by death and despite there being a fairly large LGBT scene there are still horrific stories of punishment. In Dubai where you look set to open a huge Apple Store it is illegal to be homosexual and the issues around trans people are not just misunderstood but outlawed.
I have no doubt that there is already a sizeable Apple workforce in the UAE, I find it hard to believe that such human rights abuses would prevent Apple from entering a market—parts of the United States and China aren’t much better—but I would encourage you to stick to your word of spreading the advancement of equality and human rights everywhere. For the sake of Apple employees in the UAE and other uneducated countries it’s important that Apple, once again, leads the way.