In an editorial for Bloomberg Businessweek posted this morning, Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, came out as gay. The 53-year-old has never denied his sexuality, but he has kept his privacy closely guarded. Apparently, though, he had a revelation. Cook wrote, "I believe deeply in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, who said: 'Life's most persistent and urgent question is, What are you doing for others?' I often challenge myself with that question, and I've come to realize that my desire for personal privacy has been holding me back from doing something more important."
For a long time, Cook's sexuality has been an open secret. Out magazine called him the most powerful gay man in America last year, and no one protested or filed suit. But still, the declaration is making headlines across the globe, and Daniel D'Addario at Time even said it's the most meaningful coming-out yet. That's because Cook is not merely "admitting" to being gay, he's owning it. "I'm proud to be gay, and I consider being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me," the CEO wrote.
It's true that Cook's coming out is important, but not for the reason that D'Addario suggests. For one, it's much harder to come out in the business world than, say, in Hollywood. A New York Times article by Claire Cain Miller from May asked why, exactly, there weren't many out CEOs. "The business world is one of the slowest sectors of society to adopt new norms of acceptance-despite the fact that it keeps out some talented people, the lifeblood of companies," Miller wrote. Ultimately, she concluded that breaking through the pink ceiling was considered dangerous because having a gay executive could potentially irk investors or customers.
The problem is compounded when it comes to the tech industry, which is notoriously misogynistic. Evidence abounds that it's run by overgrown college bros. In the spring of 2013, a woman tweeted about sexist remarks she overheard at an open-source conference and was subsequently besieged with-of course-death and rape threats. In May, the CEO of Snapchat had some of his old emails leaked, like one telling his fellow bros: "pat yourself a pat on the back or have some girl put your large kappa sigma dick down her throat."
Tim Cook isn't only the CEO of the biggest tech company in the world-he's also on the board of directors of the National Football League. By coming out, he's become the ultimate gay bro. So while people are shrugging their shoulders about yet another dude coming out (you can practically hear the collective sigh of clueless straight dudes across the globe going: We get it already), they should realize that Cook claiming his sexuality as an asset is a big fucking deal. By not publicly acknowledging it, he was giving credence to the idea that there are certain immutable aspects of people's personalities that can't or shouldn't be recognized in the tech world. Numbers and data are pretty democratic, so it's bizarre that tech isn't a place with a level playing field already. By coming out, Cook's helping the industry reach its meritocratic ideal-that the best programmer or the best engineer or the best businessperson should rise to the top.
Follow Allie on Twitter