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.


Shari Slate

Chief Inclusion & Collaboration Officer

SVP of Inclusive Future & Strategy