Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a Facebook fan. I lurk on the site as I work most days, and I post way more than I should. One of the things I like about it is the fact that it makes me aware of small news stories, ones that haven’t had a chance to make a big splash in the mainstream media yet. And, no, I don’t rely on Facebook for my news, but it’s a fun side aspect to something I use for other purposes.
A story I saw yesterday upset me a great deal. In it, a biochemist who is also a Nobel laureate suggested that labs should be single-sex environments because female scientists cause problems for male scientists. In particular he said:
Let me tell you about my trouble with girls … three things happen when they are in the lab … You fall in love with them, they fall in love with you and when you criticise them, they cry.
He has since issued a “sorry but” response that actually begins to get at the issue. In his response he said: “I certainly did not mean to demean women, but rather be honest about my own shortcomings.” And, yes Dr. Hunt, if you see an issue over and over and the only common thing is you, you may be the problem. Apology or not, the whole thing left me feeling depressed about STEM, gender, and public personalities.
So I was thrilled to find a story about Tim Cook, Apple, and diversity in my ACM news this morning. There are so many amazing quotes from Tim Cook that I’m going to have to restrain myself from posting them all. The highlights include this one about diversity initiatives and programs:
Some of this costs money some of it doesn’t. Mostly it’s a way of thinking. And so if you believe as we believe that diversity leads to better products, and we’re all about making products that enrich peoples lives, then you obviously put a ton of energy behind diversity the same way you would put a ton of energy behind anything else that is truly important.
He also commented on speaking out about diversity and its importance:
“The problem, as Dr. King said, is ‘the appalling silence of the good people,'” Cook insists. “I try to look at myself in the mirror and ask myself if I’m doing enough. And if the answer is no, I try to do something more. And sometimes you do things that don’t work and sometimes you do things that do work. Somehow we’ve got to get enough people to believe how important it is, and see how wrong it is not doing it.”
Yes, Mr. Cook is a CEO of a company that is concerned with being profitable, and this story is a PR dream. I’m sure those two facts aren’t unrelated. But at the same time, what he had to say and what Dr. Hunt had to say are so widely separated in terms of their consciousness of the impact of a lack of diversity on science, business, and society as a whole that it’s hard to believe they live on the same planet. And I would prefer to live on Mr. Cook’s planet.