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Apple: “We are committed to diversity”, but what about its Resellers? December 2, 2008

Posted by April Ayres-Griffiths in Apple, australia, Equality, job, mac os x, technology.

“We are committed to diversity. Apple is an Equal Opportunity Employer.”

These words grace the bottom of the jobs page on the Apple corporate website, and they are indeed committed to diversity.  It was Apple who stood up publicly and opposed proposition eight in the US, when the rest of the corporate world said nothing. It was a proud moment for Apple, when so many others only paid lip service to diversity, here they were trying to defend it.  Diversity means many things, freedom of religion, race, sexual orientation just to name a few.  Many companies would be hard pressed to live up to its example.   

However, Apple is not just its core business, its own stores and its own people.  It business was built on the backs of its resellers as well, companies representing Apple in the world at large, committed to delivering its products and services to people all around the globe.  Although Apples website proudly states that it is committed to diversity, what about its resellers?  Do they hold the same core principles to be true?

Sadly, my wife’s (we are married in Canada) recent experiences with a major Australian premium reseller leave us both with sour taste in our mouth, and wondering if resellers truly live up to the hype.  But the sad truth is that its resellers here in Australia that give people the most impression of what Apple is about.   Apple is in the process of opening more official Apple stores, but its reputation is really whatever the resellers convey.  In many respects for many communities, they are Apple.

But first, a little back story…

In Canada, my wife had over five years experience working with an Apple Authorized Reseller, had her ACTC, and several other certifications.  A couple of years ago, she came to Australia to be with me (we met online, and fell in love – another story for another day), and at the time it seemed natural that she would come here, as I was at the time in less of a position to reciprocate.  She is very good at what she does, has a good rapport with customers, is tech savvy, and was a valued technician and sales person at that store.

She recently interviewed for a permanent part time technical position with an Apple Premium Reseller, and after a brief phone interview with the recruiter for the parent company (who incidentally, was very excited about my partners certifications and experience) put her forward and arranged an interview with the Technical Manager for Victoria.  She was told several times during that interview that her qualifications were better than other people they had spoken to (in that no-one else so far had Apple certifications), and also that she seemed to understand the business.  You would think that after five plus years doing what she did and doing it well, that this would indeed be the case.

She came out of the interview feeling somewhat confident, however there were a few things nagging at her. During the course of the interview, they had joked about the fact they had a few “girls” around to do RMAs on iPods and such, and there seemed to be the implication that they seemed to think of “the girls” as they put it, only in terms of pretty faces to have around and do simple tasks.  In spite of this potentially chauvinistic attitude, my partner felt she interviewed well, and we were quietly hopeful, since she seemed a good fit for the position.  She has many years of experience dealing with customers, is Apple certified (both ACTC and APP), and was seeking what this role offered: a part-time semi technical position on the service desk.  My partner is an author and wants to ultimately pursue her writing, and the permanent part-time role gave her exactly that opportunity.  

At the end of the interview, she was given the impression that she was well suited to the position, and that she was a front-runner for the role.  The usual pleasantries were discussed, including when she could start, whether or not she had flexibility with hours.  All of which my partner replied to in the affirmative.  She had even stated that she would help out, when the service desk was idle, offered to get herself refreshed on the latest service manuals, and update her certifications to the most recent ones.  She parted with the interviewers on what she thought was good terms and was told that would be calling her early in the next week.

Time passed. No phone call.  Instead, an impersonal boiler-plate email arrived via the recruiter telling her that although she “interviewed well”, she was not considered “suitable” for the position.  The usual pleasantries and drivel that one comes to expect.  “We will keep your details for future opportunities”. 

What is particularly galling in this case, is that my partner was an ideal fit for the position.  She was seeking a permanent part time position (which this was) – something that left enough hours in the day to do other things.  She has a great amount of technical expertise, is Apple certified, has five plus years experience in a both a sales, support and technical roles.  She has good references from her store in Canada, who have maintained that she is always welcome back there.  Not something that one says to everyone they have hired.  In fact, when we spent almost a year back in Canada in 2007, she was welcomed back with open arms there.

Now the puzzling part. We are faced with the inevitable question why they would choose another candidate in her place, after having stated that she was the most suitable candidate with certifications and experience.  Was it that I gave her a kiss goodbye before her interview?  Because we are gay?  Did they see that? (I kissed her and wished her luck near the store, not directly out the front of it.)  Or did they only interview her because they were amused by a woman with technical certifications? Or perhaps because they had to, for fear of causing an incident by rejecting her application outright.  Perhaps Steve Job’s nephew appeared in a puff of smoke, and needed a job desperately.  All we have is some vague platitudes, some non-existent feedback, and the nagging fear that, Australia, seems to be stuck in the 1950’s.

Sadly, I have observed more much more gender bias here regarding technical jobs than in Canada.  It seems like the glass ceiling still exists here, and it makes me very sad and angry.  It takes many applications submitted for suitable jobs for my wife to get an interview for a technical role.  I can’t help feeling that betrayed by this country, after all, she deserves much better than this after giving up so much to be here.  It makes me feel deeply ashamed to be an Australian.   

“Do I smell?”, she asks sadly. I assure her that she is skilled and talented, and wonderful.  But my words can do little to ease her hurt, when the world at large seems determined to deny her a “fair go”.

But now I come back to my original question, and some advice for Apple proper.  In Australia in particular, where Apples own stores are still being built, and the market is still in its infancy, are not its Resellers its corporate representatives? Apple needs to be aware and reminded that its resellers are in most respects its public face, that they carry a branding that is Apple, and indicates to the community at large its perceived core values by their behavior.  

Does Apple expect its resellers to follow its corporate policies?  I believe in Apple; that it does indeed represent diversity as it suggests.  Perhaps though it needs to look a little closer at its resellers, and decide for itself if they too, represent its ideals.  Ask a simple question – perhaps the resellers themselves should be asking… Are they in alignment with Apples core beliefs? Do they have a diverse workforce and do they value that diversity? Ask your local Apple reseller what proportion of their workforce is female. Do they have a diverse mix in technical roles? If not why not. 

We have given the reseller in question three days to provide clarification on why my partner was rejected for the role, in accordance with equal opportunity legislation and guidelines.   We are not going to take this lightly, as she has every right to understand why they said one thing, and acted in a completely different way.  It pains me to see her hurt this way; I expected and hoped that we were in a more enlightened society here in Australia. Sadly, that seems not to be the case.

All my wife wants to do is to contribute to society, be a part of something and utilize her skills.  Surely that isn’t too much to ask?

But as the old adage goes, a few rotten apples can spoil the bunch.


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