Apple will not tolerate harassment at its developer conference this year

Waving goodbye.
Waving goodbye.
Image: Reuters/Robert Galbraith
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Registration for Apple’s annual developer conference, WWDC, opened today. And for the thousands of developers, engineers, and Apple acolytes hoping to spend $1,600 on a ticket and attend in June, they’ll find a new code of conduct that they’ll have to agree to before they can step foot in the convention.

The new policy, found on the conference’s registration page, goes into some depth about what sorts of behavior will not be tolerated at the conference. “Apple is committed to diversity and to providing a harassment-free conference experience for everyone,” it states. It also specifically lists what harassment could entail:

All attendees have the right to a safe and welcoming environment regardless of gender, gender identity and expression, age, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, ethnicity, religion, or any other attributes. In addition to treating others respectfully, please do not bring items with disrespectful, malicious, or sexually-oriented writing, images, or audio to the conference.

Last year, Apple’s attendance policy simply stated that “it reserves the right to refuse admittance to, or remove any person … behaving in an inappropriate, disorderly, disrespectful, or dangerous manner.”

Apple wasn’t immediately available to explain whether this signaled a shift in the company’s attitude toward discrimination, or just a more explicit communication of the company’s existing policy. The company recently released a statement in disagreement with the administration of US president Donald Trump repealing guidelines on letting transgender students at public schools use the bathrooms of their choosing. “We support efforts toward greater acceptance, not less,” Apple told Recode.

Complaints of a discriminatory work environment have been levied against Apple in the past. A 2016 story by Mic suggested that a string of women at Apple have had to put up with rape jokes, stereotyping, being passed over for promotions, and harassment. Also last year, a former Apple lawyer claimed he was fired over his Muslim faith not being a “cultural fit,” and in 2015, an Apple store in Australia kicked out a group of black teenagers as security thought ”they might steal something.”

Apple also continues to struggle to build a diverse workplace. In its 2016 report on the issue, the company said it was 56% white, 68% male. Its leadership team is also 67% white, and 72% male. Apple reported some progress, saying 54% of its new US hires were non-white, but didn’t provide break down the roles they filled.

Engineering continues to be an overwhelmingly male-dominated field, with the US National Science Foundation reporting in 2013 that only about 30% of those employed in science and engineering fields were women, with that percentage dropping into single digits for hardware and electrical engineering. A survey last year found that 60% of women working in Silicon Valley reported being sexually harassed.