Denise Young Smith, Apple’s diversity chief, is stepping down, reports say.
The move is strange. Young has only been in the job for six months. But reports suggest her departure is linked to “recent controversial remarks about white men.”
Several weeks ago, at the One Young World Summit in Bogotá, Colombia, Young suggested that diversity of thought is important, too.
“I focus on everyone,” Young told the audience. “Diversity is the human experience. 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.”
“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.”
Quartz reports that Young’s statement “was met with a round of applause at the session.” Not everyone was pleased, however. Young, who has worked at Apple for two decades, soon felt compelled to walk back her comments, issuing a lengthy apology to staff in an email obtained by TechCrunch.
“My comments were not representative of how I think about diversity or how Apple sees it,” she wrote. “For that, I’m sorry.”
The announcement that Young will be leaving Apple comes a week after the release of the company’s first public “diversity report.” TechCrunch offers a summary:
“Apple is still 32 percent female worldwide. In the U.S., Apple is 54 percent white (down two percentage points from last year), 13 percent Hispanic (up one percentage point), nine percent black (no change), 21 percent Asian (up two percentage points), three percent multiracial (up one percentage point) and one percent other (no change).
From July 2016 to July 2017, Apple says half of its new hires in the U.S. were from historically underrepresented groups in tech (women, black, Hispanic, Native American, Native Hawaiian & Other Pacific Islander). Apple’s new hires also reflect more diversity than its current employees. For example, 11 percent of Apple’s new hires were black compared to its current black employee population of nine percent.”
One can see the issue here. Apple, which employs some 130,000 people worldwide, is facing heat to get more diverse. Prominent shareholders have expressed concerns “that low levels of diversity at the Company’s senior management and board level… are a business risk.”
To not be sufficiently diverse is a great shame to corporations, especially those in Silicon Valley. And when the company’s own diversity chief starts talking about “diversity of thought” instead of the numbers, that’s a problem for Apple.
As I wrote before, in 21st century America, diversity is not just a virtue; it is a tenet of faith—“one that must be observed at all times and cannot be questioned.”
Young, a long-time HR exec, questioned the faith. Now she’s out.
[Image Credit: Youtube/Fortune]