Denise Young Smith, Apple’s new vice president of diversity and inclusion, doesn’t believe being a minority or a woman are the only criteria for diversity, Quartz reports.
“There can be 12 white, blue-eyed, blonde 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,” Young Smith said on-stage at the recent One Young World Summit, held in Bogotá, Colombia.
Young Smith had been working as Apple’s VP of human resources since 1997 before moving to her new role earlier this May. The new position will involve overseeing Apple’s push to create a more diverse workplace.
Young Smith believes true diversity goes further than skin colour and sex. The hypothetical room of a dozen white men also incorporates diverse personal histories, which Young Smith said she is quick to embrace.
“Diversity is the human experience,” she said. “I get a little bit frustrated when diversity or the term diversity is tagged to the people of colour, or the women, or the LGBT.”
Apple, like much of Silicon Valley, has been trying to improve its diversity numbers for years.
Engineering and coding tends to skew male, and often white or Asian. In 2014, when Apple’s diversity research revealed its global workforce of 98,000 was 55% white and 70% male, CEO Tim Cook said, “I’m not satisfied with the numbers on this page.”
He’s since said the dearth of female leaders in science, technology, engineering, and maths — or STEM — threatens America’s position as a technology powerhouse.
“Women are such an important part of the workforce,” he told the Auburn Plainsman earlier this April. “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.”
Young Smith’s recent comments seem to signal a broader view of diversity at the tech giant. She did, however, acknowledge that more traditional notions of diversity weren’t lost on her, given she is a black woman and has been “playing this role for a very long time.”