By Ryan Velez
Denise Young Smith is Apple's new vice president of diversity and inclusion, and on paper, this would seem like a boon for the Silicon Valley company. However, a statement Young made that has been reported on by Business Insider is likely to have many people scratching their heads.
"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 is no newcomer to the company, working as Apple's VP of human resources since 1997 before moving to her new role earlier this May.
"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 color, or the women, or the LGBT." To be fair, Young Smith’s view isn’t necessarily inaccurate, but it may come off a little tone-deaf to some considering the issues that Apple and Silicon Valley have had bringing in talented minorities to work for them. Part of this is an endemic issue to the whole STEM category. Generally, engineering and coding skew white or Asian, and mostly male. CEO Tim Cook flat out said that he was unhappy with diversity numbers showing that its global workforce of 98,000 was 55% white and 70% male.
Cook has said that this issue goes beyond simple inclusion. The lack of female leaders in STEM could be an issue for the entire country and its position at the top of the technology heap. "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."
While Young Smith’s statement may seem that she is looking at diversity in a different light than many people frustrated with these companies, she has acknowledged the traditional noting of diversity isn’t lost on her. She mentioned that she is a Black woman and has been "playing this role for a very long time." Ultimately, it looks like results will determine how her views go into practice.