Apple Human Resources Chief Denise Young Smith said the company is investigating accusations of sexism among its employees, Recode reports. In emails first reported by Mic, a female employee said her male coworkers publicly joked about rape and created a “very toxic atmosphere” that persisted despite several complaints to management. She finally escalated the issue directly to CEO Tim Cook. “Rape jokes in work chat is basically where I completely draw the limit.” she wrote to Cook in an email. “I do not feel safe at a company that tolerates individuals who make rape jokes.”
Another female employee detailed being the only woman in a meeting where the discussion devolved into dismissive remarks about the mens’ wives and significant others, leaving her “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.” She also mentions an instance of being told to “smile” by a manager. One male employee also voiced his concerns, saying he was referred to as having the “qualities of a woman” to imply he wasn’t “strong enough or stable enough to handle the difficulties of life or work in the way a man can.”
One of the women reported retaliation after filing a complaint, saying Apple admitted she was in a hostile work environment, but told her she either had to stay where she was or take a lower-paying job on another team. Others reported being passed over for promotions that were handed out to white male employees without ever being posted internally. On August 4, one woman filed a complaint with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing to investigate how Apple treats women in leadership positions.
Young Smith said Apple takes these types of complaints “not just seriously, but personally,” adding that the stories she’s heard aren’t reflective of the company she knows. While declining to say what was done in each specific case, Young Smith claimed Apple has investigated the incidents raised in the recent articles and “commensurate actions have been taken,” with possible punishments ranging from from informal conversations to immediate dismissal. She said she hopes the recent negative publicity won’t discourage other women from coming forward about their experiences and making use of the women-at-Apple mailing list that contained the leaked emails. “We cannot risk losing that,” Young Smith said of the list. “We have to have a safe place for people to do that.”