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Can Apple Overcome Its Dismal Diversity Numbers?

Diversity and inclusion are goals we’ve obviously promoted heavily over the years, and we’re always happy to see companies not only recognize the importance of those complementary goals, but also to take action in promoting them. That’s why we were so excited to see the recent development with Apple. Writing for CNN Tech, Sara Ashley O’Brien covered the recent move by Apple to hire its first VP of inclusion and diversity – Denise Young Smith.

To be clear, Apple – the world’s largest company by just about any measure (revenue, profit, assets and market cap) – has had employees in a leadership role focused on diversity and inclusion before. Jeffrey Siminoff held the position of director of inclusion and diversity from 2013 to 2015, when he left to join Twitter. But there has been a gap between Siminoff’s departure and the creation of this new position, so it’s great to see that not only has Apple returned to the practice of putting an executive in charge of promoting inclusion and diversity, but they’ve elevated the status of the role. Young Smith will be a vice president, not a director, and she’ll be reporting directly to Apple CEO Tim Cook.

O’Brien reports that, “Smith has held prominent positions at Apple. Most recently, she was vice president of global talent and human resources; she was also part of the leadership team that built out Apple's retail business.”

Apple has struggled to fill out its ranks with diverse employees in recent years. CNN reported last August that its 2016 diversity report, “revealed little progress in its strategy to hire more women and underrepresented minorities.” Progress occurred, but was minimal—a bump of 3 and 2 percent, respectively, in female and black tech staffers. Hopefully, this renewed focus and the appointment of Ms. Young Smith will have a greater impact.

As we’ve noted multiple times before, it’s important to not equate diversity with inclusion; however, it’s hard to develop an inclusive environment with diversity numbers as strikingly low as Apple’s. Diversity and inclusion go hand in hand. Still, it’s heartening to see that Apple recognizes a lack of diversity and inclusion as an issue and is taking concrete steps to address the issue and not simply paying lip service to an ideal.

Be inclusive!

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