MacKenzie Scott, philanthropist and author, formerly married to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, has given over $4 billion to 383 organizations across the country in the last four months, including two Austin charities.
Meals on Wheels Central Texas received $8 million and The Young Women's Christian Association of Greater Austin, or YWCA, received $1 million as part of her philanthropic effort to give to organizations during the pandemic.
Scott announced the news of her major charitable contribution in a Medium post on Tuesday, stating that the pandemic has been tearing down already struggling Americans, but felt inspiration from the generosity of random acts of kindness of Americans.
Earlier this year, Scott shared another Medium post recalling her pledge to give majority of her wealth back to the society which helped her achieve it. Since then, Scott's actions have proven to be generous and thoughtful, stating "the thought of what will come if each of us reflects on what we can offer" fills her with hope.
Inspired by the work of these teams and so many others this year: https://t.co/TlMe3wP4UQ— MacKenzie Scott (@MacKenzie Scott) 1608052341.0
"This pandemic has been a wrecking ball in the lives of Americans already struggling," Scott wrote. "Economic losses and health outcomes alike have been worse for women, for people of color, and for people living in poverty. Meanwhile, it has substantially increased the wealth of billionaires.
Scott, who is the 18th richest person in the world and was listed in Forbes 100 most powerful women in the world, noted all organizations "could benefit from more resources."
In 2020, Scott worked with a team of advisors who helped her select the organizations based on different suggestions from hundreds of field experts, funders and non-profit leaders and volunteers. Scott said her team considered over 6,000 organizations and deeply researched 822, taking extra time to evaluate every single one.
"Because our research is data-driven and rigorous, our giving process can be human and soft," Scott wrote.
In the end, 384 organizations were chosen and 438 were put on hold for further inquiry and analysis.
Meals on Wheels Central Texas focuses on the distribution of meals throughout the region to homebound older adults and people with disabilities. The non-profit has been in the Austin area since 1972 and continues to provide aid to people who seek and need help.
Meals on Wheels Central Texas CEO and President Adam Hauser said the organization is "deeply thankful for the trust she has shown (the) agency."
YWCA of Greater Austin advocates on behalf of racial justice and civil rights, empowerment and economic advancement and health and safety of women and girls.
YWCA plans on using Scott's donation to enhance the help and work on the YMCA Austin's Counseling and Referral Center, Care Coordination Program and Volunteer and Training Institute, according to KXAN.
Since 2019, Scott, along with America's wealthiest people, contributed to the Giving Pledge, a movement founded by Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett. The movement inspires philanthropists to commit to giving a majority of their wealth back to society in charitable ways. In her post, Scott wrote she is far from completing her pledge.
"If you're craving a way to use your time, voice or money to help others at the end of this difficult year, I highly recommend a gift to one of the thousands of organizations doing remarkable work all across the country," Scott wrote. "The hope you feed with your gift is likely to feed your own."
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Last fall, Janneke Parrish was pushing hard in her advocacy at Apple. She wanted to see flexibility with remote work, pay equity and for Apple to respond to Texas’ six-week abortion ban with paid time off and coverage for the procedure under the company’s health insurance plan.
Then, in October last year, she was fired.
Parrish, who lives in Round Rock and worked at Apple’s Austin campus as an Apple Maps program manager for about five years, is a leader of an internal movement at the tech giant. It comes at a time when the company is expanding its local presence with a new $1 billion Northwest campus with space for 5,000 employees.
Parrish worked at this Apple campus on West Parmer Lane. (Steven Joyner)
In August, the movement known as #AppleToo launched a website with the goal of organizing employees and sharing stories about alleged workplace harassment and discrimination. Austonia talked to Parrish and another former Apple employee who are part of the movement about their claims in what they observed while working for Apple.
“I’ve been advocating for members of my immediate team within Apple for several years,” Parrish said. “And when I realized that the issues that I was seeing with my own team were true throughout Apple, there was a natural transition toward, ok let’s expand this advocacy and instead be more of an advocate for everybody at Apple to ensure that we the workers at Apple are treated fairly and equitably and get treated as human beings.”
In the lead-up to her firing, Parrish faced an allegation that she had leaked details from a recent all-hands meeting to the Verge. She says she suspects it’s this, along with her advocacy, that influenced Apple’s decision to fire her.
“I didn’t do (the leak). And I know that Apple knows I didn’t do this,” Parrish said since a few employees including herself didn’t have access to that meeting due to a system crash that day. “I was still placed under investigation.”
As a requirement of the investigation, Parrish turned in her work devices. Before doing so, she wiped the files from her computer, saying she didn’t want her personal files on Apple servers. After a few days on paid suspension, she says human resources called and told her she’d been terminated with the reason being that she’d deleted those files.
Parrish is one of the leaders of the AppleToo movement. (Janneke Parrish)
Before Parrish’s firing, Apple was taking action on leaks and workplace organizing. An internal memo from 2018 noted a number of leakers they had caught were arrested. About a month before Parrish was fired, the tech giant had fired a senior engineering program manager for allegedly leaking confidential information. And in a September note, CEO Tim Cook sent a note to all Apple employees saying “people who leak confidential information do not belong” at Apple.
Austonia asked Apple about Parrish’s case and other matters at the company. In an email reply, the company said:
“We are and have always been deeply committed to creating and maintaining a positive and inclusive workplace. We take all concerns seriously and we thoroughly investigate whenever a concern is raised and, out of respect for the privacy of any individuals involved, we do not discuss specific employee matters.”
Another piece of Parrish’s advocacy involved career opportunities for workers, particularly those based in Austin.
Even though Apple upped their presence in Austin in recent years, Parrish said Austin-area employees couldn’t enjoy networking opportunities like California workers did as Apple events were held on the West Coast. Texan Apple workers shouldn’t have to relocate to move up, she said.
“For those of us in Austin, I noticed, especially for my department, my career options were extremely limited,” Parrish said. “I was told by a manager that if I really wanted to advance in my career, I would have to move out to California.”
Parrish said Apple employees in Austin do not have the same career opportunities as those in California. (Shutterstock)
Austonia spoke to another member of the organizing group AppleToo. She requested anonymity to not hinder future job prospects in the tech industry. She’ll be identified with the pseudonym Mary.
Mary said she’s worked at Apple since 2008 in Austin, starting off as a contractor in customer support at iTunes and moving around over the years, leaving the tech giant earlier this month.
“It’s too hard to advance and there are no opportunities for development so (I was) just kind of stuck in a dead-end job,” Mary said.
Mary felt that another challenge was being a woman at a tech company. Starting out, she says she was the lowest paid in a training class of mostly men with pay of around $30,000, which rose to about $55,000 by the time she left.
But aside from pay, communication also proved to be a hurdle. To make her persona appear gender-neutral, she changed how her name was displayed on Slack, the interoffice directory and over email to just her first initial.
“The hard part was when I would have to get into a meeting with people then I felt like my voice is giving me away now,” Mary said. “But when I could avoid having meetings, I felt like it did make a difference.”
Mary says there’s been some movement in the right direction. An internal memo in November affirmed employees’ right to discuss pay after it had shut down employee-run pay equity surveys and an employee-run Slack channel. Earlier this month, it announced new efforts in a racial equity and justice initiative.
“We all want to see positive changes from Apple,” Mary said. “We all want them to look at wage disparities. We’d like to see more diversity—more minorities in leadership positions, more females in leadership positions.”
Still, Mary feels there’s more to be done. “I wish Apple was more responsive at making bigger changes,” she said.
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The Texas French Bread Bakery, located on 2900 Rio Grande Street, has been completely destroyed after a fire erupted on Monday night.
The Austin Fire Department responded to the fire just before 11 p.m., where they arrived to see flames coming from the roof of the bakery. Firefighters fought the fire for about an hour before the roof collapsed.
While no one was injured in the fire, firefighters say the historic building was completely totaled.
Texas French Bread just went up in flames pic.twitter.com/agXqKN3c00
— Jordan (@AimIessFriend) January 25, 2022
AFD determined that the fire was accidental and caused by mechanical failure. AFD said the damages amounted to $1.6 million total: $1.1 million in structural damage and $500,000 in damage to the contents of the bakery.
This year, Texas French Bread will celebrate 40 years of business. Before the bakery occupied the building, it was the Rome Inn, a music venue that hosted 1970s artists like Stevie Ray Vaughan.