“Brick by Brick”

November 7, 2014 - 8 Comments

Undoubtedly you heard the news last week of Apple CEO Tim Cook’s open letter in which he publicly acknowledges his sexuality and expresses deep pride in being gay.  While the headline alone is remarkable – the real treasure can be mined from exploring the letter in its entirety and inquiring how we as individuals and as an enterprise can manifest the true intention of this extraordinary message.

Tim Cook’s announcement was an act of service and contribution.  In sharing a personal truth, he illuminates a universal one – our greatest challenges often bear the greatest gifts.  For Tim, being gay has given him a deeper understanding of those in the minority, greater empathy, the confidence to be himself, to follow his own path, and to rise above adversity and bigotry.  And as a result –  a richer life.

His message reminds us all that not everyone has “the good fortune to work at a company that loves creativity and innovation and knows it can only flourish when you embrace people’s differences.” In doing what he feels is his part to help others, he inspires us to re-evaluate ours.

Like Apple, Cisco has a long held commitment to embracing people’s differences and welcoming a full spectrum of different backgrounds, experiences, cultures, affiliations, work styles, and points-of-view.

And there is work to be done.  As long as anyone experiences sexuality, race, gender, or another dimension of diversity as even the slightest impediment to success, there is work to be done.  While it is my passion and my privilege to be leading this work for Cisco, in reality we all lead this work.  Day by day.  Decision by decision.  In each interaction, we have the opportunity to create environments in which everyone can thrive.  As Tim puts it, “We pave the sunlit path toward justice together, brick by brick”.

Let’s start a dialogue about that sunlit path.  The progress we have made – the possibilities we envision – the next step along the path.

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  1. I agree with all, as we say it is our diffrences which make us unique and the comments suggest that too.
    Stefan if all thought like you what an ideal world it would be ( I respect all perpectives here) but that is not the reality as JT put it.
    I think Shari has said it all very well. If we can all be encompassing towards differences then this is what will make us be all feel included where we can all bring our true and authentic selves to work.

  2. When so many of those who identify as GLBT remain closeted in some way at work, Tim Cook’s announcement (and Shari’s supportive blog!!!!) help!!! Thank you Tim and Shari.

  3. I fail to understand why anyone should be ‘proud’ to be gay, or straight, or black, or white, or anything else. It is like saying that you are proud to have two arms, two legs, a head and a torso. It is a silly remark that has no demonstrably comparative meaning – unless, that is, you want to assert that one state of being is preferable to another.

    Still, good luck to him. I couldn’t care less what his sexual preferences are.

    • Hi Stefan,
      First, I’m really glad to see your support for Tim Cook – and your lack of concern in his announcement may be the happy future state.

      For now, though, to your question, it was just a few years ago that BP’s CEO resigned in the wake of his being outed. To stand forward and refute the expectation of shame does require more than “feeling fine” about it – it requires deeply understanding that who he is makes him better – pride.

      Best, and thanks again,

    • Hi Stefan,

      Thanks for commenting on Shari’s great post. I’d like to address your question about why someone like Tim Cook should profess to be proud to be gay. I can’t know exactly why Tim uses the term proud, but I know why I use that term when I talk to colleagues and friends about my being gay. It’s because I don’t feel shame – none at all – in being who I am and not being shy about it. I think pride is the opposite to shame in this respect.

      There was a time I felt ashamed about my feelings (when I was a teenager especially) – but now I’m out AND proud because I don’t feel that shame for something that is an integral part of me. I’m also very privileged to work for a company such as Cisco where this pride is celebrated on a daily basis.


    • Stefan

      You raise a good point. We are all usually born with two arms, two legs, a head and a torso. However, some of us are Black, Asian, gay, short, tall, male, female, athletic, introverted or other characteristic. Because of these variations and differences people are valued differently. Because of these differences people may be hired, fired, promoted or even their compensation may be different than others who have the same two legs, two arms, head and torso. A woman may be hired for less compensation than a man who has the same experience and qualifications.

      As a young teen I was denied service as a restaurant because I was black. Can you imagine how you would feel if you were denied access because your name is Stefan? How valued and respected, equal and proud would you feel? How much pride would you feel if you are constantly told or given the feeling that you are not smart enough, fast enough, etc to be whatever you might endeavor to be?

      But then again, you have two arms, two legs, a head and torso. I guess that is all it takes to make us all equal.

      • JT, you state it clearly: we are excluded sometimes for the personal attributes that we have…and that exclusion makes us feel unwelcome, disrespected, under-valued, and unheard. That exclusion does not contribute to welcoming new ideas or innovation.

        Tim Cook would have been excluded for being gay at times in his life. Yet, he has made it to the top, and is ‘proud’ of his sexuality.

        In a dictionary that I have open right now, pride has 3 meanings:
        – arrogance
        – satisfaction
        – self-respect

        Stefan, thank you for raising the point about ‘pride’. As with all things, some of us hunmans may associate it with arrogance, and others, David, thank you, with self-respect.

        It is unfortunate it has so many meanings.
        If we can always ‘assume good intent’ then self-respect would be the best translation, and repsect for others, regardless of their personal attributes would ensure that, at Cisco, all our people feel welcomed, respected, valued and heard, and we generate the best ideas and the most successful business decisions.

  4. Love this sentiment, Shari: “Tim Cook’s announcement was an act of service and contribution. In sharing a personal truth, he illuminates a universal one — our greatest challenges often bear the greatest gifts.”