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Emails Leaked by Apple Employees Reveal Harassment and Jokes About Rape and “Man Periods”


In the past year, Apple has pledged to work harder to improve diversity at the company; statistics released by the company a year ago seemed to indicate that progress had been made in this area, but according to employees, company culture remains a big stumbling block for new hires, particularly those who belong to marginalized groups. After seeing their complaints about harassment at work get ignored by higher-ups, several current and former Apple employees have chosen to leak 50 pages of emails to Mic to show evidence of the harassment they’ve experienced at work–and proof that their bosses ignored it.

Women represent only 32% of the global workforce at Apple; the women who have ended up working on male-dominated teams described their own struggles in the leaked emails. In one email, an employee alerted Apple’s Business Conduct contact to an unpleasant experience she had in a work meeting: “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.”

In another incident, she described walking past a group of male managers, one of whom was the Area Manager, who “told [her] to smile as I walked past.” She also described her late nights working at the office, long after the motion-sensor lights had turned off; she felt nervous about working alone in the dark and requested to be transferred to work nearby the other employees who also worked late. This request got denied, and after having her other experiences ignored by higher-ups, the employee chose to leave the company as a result.

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the complaints described in the emails. One female engineer at Apple escalated a complaint about the male coworkers on her team, one of whom made jokes that “an office intruder was coming to rape everybody”–and unfortunately, according to the employee, this wasn’t the first time that her coworkers had made rape jokes of this kind. She escalated her complaints not only to her manager, but also to Apple CEO Tim Cook. Unfortunately, nothing changed, and Cook did not respond to her email.

Cook also didn’t respond to emails about harassment from male coworkers, either. One male Apple employee described how his male peers at work would use the phrase “Man Period” to condescend to him. In his official complaint to Cook and to several other people at the company, the employee explained why the phrase was misogynistic and unacceptable: “This is a statement used to push the fact that women while menstruating are emotional and cannot be depended on to do work or be rational.”

Again, no steps were taken in any effort to improve company culture and to limit these types of jokes from getting tossed around the workplace. Even worse, many employees expressed concerns in the leaked emails about their desires to receive promotions and move upward in the company, only to then see their white male peers get promoted over them. Some employees have chosen to pursue legal action against Apple, working with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing in the hopes of improving conditions for employees at the company. Others have simply quit Apple and tried to move on.

One employee wrote in their resignation letter, “Despite all attempts to seek justice within this corporation, the cries of several minority employees about the toxic and oppressive environment have gone unanswered. I have witnessed the complete and utter disenfranchising of the voices of men and women of color and the fault lies not only in the direct management staff but in the response of those tasked with protecting employee rights.”

If Apple aims to increase the diversity of the employees at their company, it sounds like they should focus more on employee retention, rather than simply on their hiring practices. It doesn’t do much to hire diversely if those employees then get harassed by their coworkers, and if their harassment is ignored by higher-ups, and if they’re passed over for raises and promotions. It is meaningless to have a diverse employee base if those employees are not respected, and also, if those employees are the first to leave.

(via Engadget, image via Thomas Heylen on Flickr)

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Maddy Myers, journalist and arts critic, has written for the Boston Phoenix, Paste Magazine, MIT Technology Review, and tons more. She is a host on a videogame podcast called Isometric (, and she plays the keytar in a band called the Robot Knights (