Apple CEO Tim Cook visited his alma mater Auburn University on Thursday to speak about diversity, inclusion and other issues related to human rights, topics for which the high-profile tech executive consistently advocates.
The event, titled "A Conversation with Tim Cook: A Personal View of Inclusion and Diversity," was hosted by Auburn's Student Government Association and took place this morning at the Telfair B. Peet Theatre. While a comprehensive recap of the speech is not currently available, student newspaper The Plainsman published a few highlights from the talk.
Cook, a 1982 alumnus, said students should be prepared to encounter people from every walk of life as both colleagues and customers when they enter their respective fields. Few companies serve a single demographic, and many firms now reach customer bases far beyond their domestic borders.
"The world is intertwined today, much more than it was when I was coming out of school," Cook said. "Because of that, you really need to have a deep understanding of cultures around the world."
As for inclusion, Cook cited Apple's own corporate ethos.
"We believe you can only create a great product with a diverse team," Cook said. "And I'm talking about the large definition of diversity. One of the reasons Apple products work really great — I hope you think they work really great — is that the people working on them are not only engineers and computer scientists, but artists and musicians. It's this intersection of the liberal arts and humanities with technology that makes products that are magical."
With Cook in charge, Apple has become a leading Silicon Valley advocate for human rights issues. Along with internal efforts to diversify its ranks, Apple is an outspoken proponent of inclusion in the workplace and beyond.
Most recently, Apple in February spoke out against the Trump administration's withdrawal of federal protections covering the use of public school bathrooms by transgender students. The public statement followed Apple's signing of an amicus brief last July in support of U.S. Justice Department efforts to halt the enforcement of a North Carolina law that prohibits transgender people from entering bathrooms, locker rooms and other facilities inconsistent with the gender listed on their birth certificate.
Cook himself put his name to a joint letter asking then North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory and the state's General Assembly to repeal the bill.