A titan of technology and its liberal CEO got an earful about real diversity in the boardroom at the annual shareholders meeting.
Justin Danhof of the National Center for Public Policy Research attended the March 1 shareholder meeting at technology giant Apple to raise the issue to investors and corporate executives.
"There was quite a few people who were pretty angry at me," Danhof reports, "but quite a few people that understood the point that we were getting at…"
That point, Danhof says, is that if companies decide to become engaged politically, and immerse themselves in the ongoing debate over ideas and policies, then the boardroom table should be filled with a diversity of ideas and beliefs. When there is a lack of diversity and a serious situation arises, he says, the responses are predictably one-sided.
"That leads to group-think," he warns, "and group-think leads to nobody in the room asking critical questions."
One real-life example of that failure happened right in front of Danhof, who says Apple's CEO was visibly happy when liberal shareholders took turns speaking against his appeal for more diversity.
"He cheered. He clapped," Danholf says of Apple's leader, Tim Cook. "And when a conservative or a nonpartisan individual got up to express support for the proposal, he sat there mute like a potted plant."
Cook, 58, has served as CEO since 2011 when the health of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs was declining from pancreatic cancer.
The back-and-forth debate went on until the corporation's general counsel cut off discussion, and there were many more investors who wanted to weigh in on the issue, Danhof says.
"It means we struck a nerve," he insists. "It means that the issue that we brought up is something that lots of folks are thinking about, and they're thinking about it from a wide perspective of ideology, frankly."