Apple's first diversity boss is leaving -- not long after making controversial remarks about white men

Apple Denise Young SmithGetty Images EntertainmentApple’s outgoing vice president for diversity and inclusion, Denise Young Smith.
  • Apple’s first head of diversity is to leave the firm after taking up the role in May.
  • Denise Young Smith’s departure comes just one month after she made controversial comments about a group of “white, blue-eyed blond” men being diverse.
  • Young Smith had been with Apple since 2000 according to her LinkedIn profile, and had reportedly already decided to leave the company before the controversy.

Apple’s vice president for diversity and inclusion, Denise Young Smith, is leaving the company after six months in the role, according to TechCrunch.

According to the report, Young Smith will be replaced by Christie Smith, previously a managing principal at Deloitte.

Apple did not respond to a request for comment, but confirmed Christie Smith’s role in a statement to TechCrunch.

“We deeply believe that diversity drives innovation,” the spokesperson said. “We’re thrilled to welcome an accomplished leader like Christie Smith to help us continue the progress we’ve made toward a more diverse workplace.”

News of Young Smith’s departure comes only a month after she made controversial comments about the nature of diversity. According to the report, Young Smith had already made up her mind to leave Apple before the controversy hit.

Speaking at the One Young World Summit in Colombia in October, she said: “There can be 12 white, blue-eyed, blond men in a room and they’re going to be diverse too because they’re going to bring a different life experience and life perspective to the conversation.”

Her comments caused immediate outcry, not least because she spoke at a time of extreme sensitivity around the topic of diversity in Silicon Valley. Young Smith backtracked a few days later.

Writing for The New York Times, StubHub’s head of global business operations Bärí A. Williams wrote: “Those of us in the tech industry know that the idea of ‘cognitive diversity’ is gaining traction among leaders in our field.

“In too many cases, this means that, in the minds of those with influence over hiring, the concept of diversity is watered down and reinterpreted to encompass what Silicon Valley has never had a shortage of — individual white men, each with their unique thoughts and ideas.”

Apple recently released its annual diversity report, showing where it’s made progress on hiring minorities and women. It has only nudged up the proportion of female leadership by one percentage point to 29%. The percentage of black, multiracial, and Hispanic employees in leadership roles did not change, while the proportion of Asians at the top was up to 23%, from 21% the prior year.

“Meaningful change takes time,” the company said in its report. “We’re proud of our accomplishments, but we have much more work to do.”

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