Apple’s gender problem might be worse than we thought, newly leaked emails reveal

Apple drew criticism in 2014 when reports detailing the company’s strong penchant for hiring white males surfaced. As of 2014, 55 percent of the company’s employees were white. As of August, 68 percent were male. Lack of diversity is in itself a huge problem, especially in creative spheres where diverse backgrounds are known to result in diverse ideas. But according to more than 50 newly leaked emails from 12 former and present female employees, lack of diversity at Apple could be responsible for a sexist work environment, too. Shocking, I know.

Emails leaked to Mic by female Apple employees reveal what it’s like to work on male-dominated teams, where period jokes and casual references to sexual assault aren’t at all uncommon. One email shows an employee referred to as Danielle (not her real name) writing to Apple CEO Tim Cook: “Rape jokes in work chat is basically where I completely draw the limit. I do not feel safe at a company that tolerates individuals who make rape jokes.” Mic reports that Danielle has yet to receive a response from Cook, who, frustratingly enough, has made headlines for generously responding to emails of “random Apple customers.” Apple has yet to issue a public statement or respond to the allegations.

Another female Apple employee wrote in a leaked email of her experience as the only woman in a room: “The conversation turned to all of the men being dismissive about their wives and their significant others. I felt very uncomfortable of the reality that I was the only woman in the room as all of my male coworkers stereotyped women as nags and this was not countered by my manager as being inappropriate.”

One female contractor wrote about being condescendingly told she wasn’t “technical” in an interview, and not being hired; a female employee wrote about how she never even had the opportunity to apply for promotions she felt “more than qualified” for, as her male boss privately selected two men to fill them.

One unnamed employee wrote in a leaked email of negative experiences with reporting sexism, which only led to “continued harassment and retaliation” from male coworkers:

“White male privilege runs unchecked. The worst part is, you don’t know who to trust and who you can reach out to without continued harassment and retaliation. I am beyond discouraged and disheartened at my treatment and the lack of follow-up.”

Similarly, another Apple employee, referred to as Claire by Mic, was given the option of taking a demotion with lower pay or staying in what Apple identified as “a hostile work environment.”

The leaked emails reveal that other cases were handled similarly or not dealt with at all.

As of January, women hold only 26 percent of all tech industry jobs, and women working in the tech industry are also paid substantially less than their male counterparts, Glassdoor found earlier this year. While a variety of factors contribute to both gaps, the conditions and sexism women in tech face are a factor, discouraging other women from entering a field in which women know they’ll be met with disrespect, harassment, and minimal opportunities for advancement.

On its website, Apple writes that “the most creative company must also be the most diverse” and emphasizes “inclusion” and “varied perspectives.” But fostering a diverse company will be exponentially more difficult with environments hostile toward different groups, and sweeping women’s voices and complains under the table isn’t going to help.