Denise Young Smith, Apple’s Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion, apologized to colleagues over the weekend for misrepresenting Apple’s commitment to diversity, Tech Crunch reported. She provoked backlash last week for saying during a talk at One Young World Summit in Bogotá, Colombia, that White men can be diverse.
“Last week, while attending a summit in Bogota, I made some comments as part of a conversation on the many factors that contribute to diversity and inclusion….I regret the choice of words I used to make this point,” she wrote in an email over the weekend, the report said.
Young Smith’s point was that diversity wasn’t just about race or sexuality. Aamna Mohdin, a panelist at the conference, had asked Young Smith if she planned to “prioritize” Black women. Young Smith responded with “all diversity matters” rhetoric: And I’ve often told people a story– there can be 12 White blue-eyed blonde men in a room and they are going to be diverse too because they’re going to bring a different life experience and life perspective to the conversation.
Young Smith’s comments have since been taken up by racists and male supremacists, Tech Crunch reported: “Diversity of thought” has long been a lever used by critics of the concept of D&I work to push back against meaningful diversity efforts.
In her email, Young Smith said that she understood why some people took offense to her words. She said that the company’s “commitment… to increasing racial and gender diversity is as strong as it’s ever been,“ which doesn’t say much, as Apple has long had poor diversity numbers. Only 9 percent of the team is Black, and the majority of these employees are in the retail force, the report noted. Young Smith has long pushed the company to do better, pioneering a partnership with the Thurgood Marshall college fund, which seeks to create a hiring pool from HBCU student populations.