How Apple and Tech Companies Are Leading the Way on Human Rights and Capacity

August 17, 2015  |  Talent


Recently, The Equality Act of 2015 was introduced with 155 co-sponsors in US Congress. The legislation, if passed, would ensure that people cannot be discriminated against on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity when it comes to employment, housing, and other rights. It would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlaws discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, and national origin, extending these rights to LGBTQ individuals, particularly in the 31 states that don’t currently extend these protections to LGBTQ citizens.

This bill, in addition to 155 co-sponsors in Congress, also has the backing of one of the largest businesses on the planet: Apple. The company has made no secret of its desire to support equality and human rights, sporting the first openly-gay CEO of a Fortune 500 company, Tim Cook. The company, in a statement to Human Rights Campaign, wrote, “At Apple we believe in equal treatment for everyone, regardless of where they come from, what they look like, how they worship or who they love. We fully support the expansion of legal protections as a matter of basic human dignity.”

Others in the technology sector also seem to be leading the charge toward this groundbreaking step in human rights. Regardless on what side of the issue you fall, I would argue that sometimes situations such as these aren’t just good humane decisions, but they make for incredible capacity builders.

In my opinion, it is vitally important that employees feel accepted and supported in the workplace. While it can be argued that one’s choices outside the workplace have no real position within its wall, I would heartily disagree. Asking employees to compartmentalize their identity to make everyone in the workplace a homogenous, innocuous culture of sameness leads to no diversity of thought and a fear-based culture that will inevitably crash and burn for lack of support of its people. We need employees to come to work and be able to seamlessly exist, knowing that the company who pays them wants to support their right for essential human rights. This type of action on behalf of Apple says quite clearly that they support their employees and that they should enjoy the same rights as others protected under law. No one working under a cloud of shame and secrecy can produce freely and creatively. The support of the law goes toward the creation of a powerhouse Leadership Brand, and supports a long-term strategy goal of employees connected to the Vision of the company because they’re not just working toward the goal, but they’re a vital part of the plan.

I speak a good amount about Leadership Brand in my forthcoming book, Unleashing Capacity: The Hidden Human Resources (Charles Pinot, 2015,) and when we talk about companies encouraging creative problem solving and focusing on taking care of the customer, one of the items implied is that the focus must be squarely on the problem. It’s incredibly hard to focus on the needs of others when your own aren’t essentially met, which is why backing legislation like this makes good business sense. If you know that your essential Maslow Level 1 and 2 needs are handled, you’re much more inclined to fearlessly focus on the needs of others.

Plus, in the end, essential human rights are just that: essential. Capacity, both corporate and personal, lies in the ability to remain agile to the demands of the market, which is much easier to do if the basics are handled. With all employees enjoying the same protection by law, we can focus on the task at hand: winning.


Rita Trehan is the Founder and Principal of Rita Trehan, LLC, a change management and leadership advisory firm focused on corporate leadership, emerging technology, and cutting-edge organizational design. As a seasoned top executive that has successfully transformed organizations at the Fortune 200 and beyond, she has extensive experience working with CEOs and top corporate management on process and organizational improvement for maximum profitability. A soon-to-be published author, Rita regularly speaks at industry conferences around the world. You can contact Rita on twitter at @rita_trehan and connect with her via LinkedIn. Rita’s blog can be found at

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