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Tim Cook: Without more women, US will lose tech lead

Commentary: In an interview, Apple's CEO insists that innovation will die without more women entering STEM fields.

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.

Praying for progress?

Stephen Lam, Getty Images

In Silicon Valley, they think they'll be kings forever. Yes, kings.

The male-oriented atmosphere that's driven the tech industry to power and fame seems entrenched.

Apple CEO Tim Cook believes this has to stop.

In an interview with his alma mater's newspaper, the Auburn Plainsman, Cook offered some plain speaking about the future of tech.

He addressed the fact that so many more men than women study science, technology, engineering and math, also known as STEM fields."I think the US will lose its leadership in technology if this doesn't change," Cook said.

His logic is straightforward. "Women are such an important part of the workforce. If STEM-related fields continue to have this low representation of women, then there just will not be enough innovation in the United States. That's just the simple fact of it."

I can hear one or two men guffaw that the tech industry has done just fine without too many women in high places. I suspect these are the sorts of men who bathe in atmospheres such as that at Uber, which is desperately attempting damage control after claims that women there are routinely harassed.

It's only recently the tech industry has started nudging itself into paying women the same as men. Apple itself admitted only last year that it had finally achieved pay equality.

Cook, who on Thursday gave a speech at the university addressing these issues, insisted: "If somebody has a strong opinion that diversity isn't important, I'd encourage them to listen and allow for they might be wrong. My strong belief that people who do that will come to the conclusion that it is incredibly important. No matter how they look at it."

Cook believes that diversity will contribute to a rise in GDP and in product quality. Even if that belief is too difficult for the naysayers to grasp, he said, can't they just be human about this?

Diversity, to him, is "what's just and what's right."

I wonder, though, whether the current political climate -- one in which rooms full of of men think themselves entitled to make decisions on what women should do with their bodies -- is entirely conducive to enacting the Apple CEO's way of thinking.

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