In Microsoft’s inaugural Next podcast last week, host David Chen interviewed George Takei, the former Star Trek actor who now hosts YouTube series Takei’s Take, on topics ranging from Takei’s youth and early career to the innovation coming from the Microsoft Garage. What Takei, who today is an activist for the gay community, didn’t discuss was the technology industry’s reputation for failing to embrace employees of differing genders, ethnicities, and sexual orientations.
Takei, who is gay, didn’t reveal his sexuality until 2005. He told Chen he waited in large part to protect his acting career, but since coming out, he’s been a gay-rights force, especially on social media. Takei married his husband, Brad, in 2008.
“I can set down my guard to totally be who I am and to have our relationship legitimized as husband and husband. It was a joyous and long sought event,” Takei said.
Takei and Cohen discussed activism more than once during the interview, but Takei chose not to broach the subject of LGBT or racial equality in the field of technology.
Microsoft, like other tech giants in the past year, was criticized for its lack of a diverse workforce. As of September, the Redmond company’s workforce was 71 percent male and 61 percent white. Gender identity and sexuality has also been a prominent discussion in the tech community, especially since Apple CEO Tim Cook publicly said he was gay in October. Furthermore, Satya Nadella’s statement that women should “trust the system” rather than ask for raises highlighted the struggles of female employees in the tech industry.
Despite its largely male and white workforce, Microsoft was one of the first companies to offer benefits to employees’ same-sex domestic partners, and the Human Rights Campaign has repeatedly ranked Microsoft as one of the Best Places to Work for equality among numerous career fields.
During the podcast, Chen called Takei a “social media god” in reference to his 8 million followers on Facebook, Takei’s medium of choice for social discussion. Takei attributes much of his following to humor and sour-faced “Grumpy Cat” memes. Once the audience was built, Takei began to talk about issues bigger than Grumpy Cat.
“I’ve been able to grow [the audience] large enough that I can inject commentary on campaign finance reform or other issues that seem a little finger wagging, but are important for Americans to be thinking about,” Takei said.