After just six months after her appointment, Apple’s vice president of diversity and inclusion was fired an outcry ensued after she said that merely being a woman or belonging to a minority group are not the sole criteria for diversity. Denise Young Smith made the comments during a One Young World Summit in Bogotá, Colombia. She told her listeners in October, “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.” 

“Diversity is the human experience,” Young Smith said. “I get a little bit frustrated when diversity or the term diversity is tagged to the people of color, or the women, or the LGBT.”

Young Smith’s critics understood her comments were to defend Apple’s overwhelmingly white male leaders. Smith later apologized for her remarks, claiming that they “were not representative of how I think about diversity or how Apple sees it.” In an email, she said, “For that, I’m sorry. More importantly, I want to assure you Apple’s view and our dedication to diversity has not changed.” Young Smith had worked for Apple for twenty years and had served as the company’s head of worldwide human resources. Smith will leave Apple at the end of this year.

Christie Smith, who spent 17 years as a principal at Deloitte, will take over the position. “We deeply believe that diversity drives innovation,” an Apple spokesman told TechCrunch in a statement. “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.” 

Apple said this year that 3 percent of company leaders were black, while women held just 23 percent of tech jobs. Female leadership stood at 29 percent, Apple said. In a report, Apple said, “Meaningful change takes time,” adding,  “We’re proud of our accomplishments, but we have much more work to do.”


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Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat and the editor of Spero News.