Human Resources

Tim Cook and the Inherent Decency of the Sector

As news paragraphs go, it was right up there with the famous “An earthquake was felt yesterday between Illapel, to the north, and Talca, to the south, in Chile. No damage was done."

Tim Cook confirmed he is gay but the only thing that was surprising or interesting in this was the arcane language used by some reporters and others: he had “publicly come out” – how quaint. Indeed, Cook’s simple statement on the matter was only notable in the sense that he said that his sexual orientation had given him a rhinoceros-like resistance to caring what people thought about him. My strong hunch is that the people for whom this was a problem mostly are not involved in the technology industry.

There can’t be many sectors as resistant to prejudice as the tech sector. The binary nature of the beast does not sit well with emotional reactions to colour, gender, faith or politics, and the high intelligence that abounds means that outlier views are closely scrutinised. The inherent openness and formal or informal peer reviews of the sector mean also that dubious statements are held up to a piercing light.

Just witness Satya Nadella on women’s pay, CEOs caught out sending juvenile emails and so on. The broad brushstrokes of ignorance are ruthlessly exposed by a line of work that values exactitude and rewards innovation and execution rather than class, status, colour and so on.

Of course it’s not perfect. Games makers still rejoice in cartoonish ideas of violence and sex; a few executives retain antediluvian characteristics. But the chorus of disapproval that meets every inane app or other mini scandal sets a high bar. In this game, you may play hard but you need to play fair and retain decorum.

One of the most positive things I can say about working around the technology world for the last quarter-century is that it is an ecosystem that auto-ejects boors, oafs and xenophobes. There’s more to be done but in an environment where standing on the shoulders of giants is lauded and where Alan Turing is iconic we can be fairly confident that work will continue. If only the rest of the world were as civilised. 


Martin Veitch is Editorial Director at IDG Connect


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Martin Veitch

Martin Veitch is Contributing Editor for IDG Connect

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