Today in Apple news that matters: $50M to diversity efforts and better wages for shuttle drivers
This week, the big Cupertino corporation named after a fruit announced a computer you wear on your wrist and a regular computer that is different than its other regular computers. Apple aficionados in the tech press were naturally rapt, spilling oceans of ink and pixels on these grey and gold gadgets.
But tacked on to the always-irresistible product news, Apple announced two efforts that do more than fatten shareholder wallets, boost earnings, and make journalists' hearts flutter: A massive diversity push and better wages and benefits for its shuttle bus drivers.
The company's human resources chief, Denise Young Smith, tells Fortune that the company will donate more than $50 million to non-profit organizations devoted to increasing the number of women, minorities, and veterans working in tech. Among the recipients of these funds is the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, which offers resources to students at historically-black colleges and universities. This poses a long-awaited partnership between the tech world and older professional organizations like HBCU's -- one that technology worker and Pando commenter extraordinaire Richard Bottoms proposed at our Don't Be Awful fest in his segment on bringing more diversity to Silicon Valley.
“There are organizations that are almost one hundred years old that are designed to make black men and women successful, but what they turn out mostly are doctors, lawyers, dentists,” Bottoms said. The union between Apple and the Thurgood Marshall College Fund is therefore a positive sign that these two constituencies are finally listening to one another.
The other big non-product news from Apple this week is that the company will increase pay to its shuttle drivers, who ferry workers from San Francisco to Apple's headquarters in Cupertino, by 25 percent.
“We’re working with the bus companies to help make a number of changes for the more than 150 drivers of our commute shuttles, including funding a 25% increase in hourly wages, premium pay for coach and shuttle drivers who work split shifts, and improving the driver break and rest areas,” according to a company statement, as reported by the Wall Street Journal.
Big tech companies' treatment of lower-paid, non-technology service workers has become a major point of contention in the Valley -- particularly by those who argue that these corporations' actions have contributed to income inequality in the Bay Area. According to a study from the think tank Joint Venture Silicon Valley cited by the Journal, "the median annual income for high-skilled workers in the region is about $119,000, while the median income for low-skilled workers is about $27,000." Meanwhile, a recent report from mortgage research site HSH.com found that the annual household income to afford the downpayment and other expenses of buying a median-priced home in San Francisco is $142,448, topping all other US metro areas.
These recent moves are good for more than just the specific workers involved -- and Apple's image. As the demand for technical talent is greater than ever, tech firms must expand their recruiting spheres to include all segments of the population to compete.
“You cannot scale your company with all white men," Kathryn Finney, head of the social enterprise digitalundivided told me last year, "There are not enough white guys in the world.” Furthermore, the increased pay and benefits for service workers will, in a small way, help make San Francisco a more livable place for all workers, and not just programmers and executives at major tech firms.
So let's give Apple credit -- not for its incremental innovations in product design, per se, but for taking real steps to make the Bay Area a little more welcoming.