After receiving backlash—particularly across social media—Apple’s vice president of diversity and inclusion, Denise Young Smith, has apologized for recent comments she made speaking at a conference earlier this month.(Denise Young Smith. Image: Apple)
During a panel session on racial injustice held in Bogota, Columbia; Young Smith said that she focuses on everyone as Apple’s diversity chief.
“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,” she said on the panel as reported by Quartz.
Her next comments are what some took issue with. “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.”
Twitter users quickly found fault with her statements:
Surely Denise Smith Young doesn’t believe a room of blonde hair, blue-eyed white men is diverse? https://t.co/FUnrEUq1BV
— carfan4ever (@carfan4ever) October 14, 2017
Apple’s Black VP of Diversity, Denise Smith Young, believes a roomful of white men qualifies as diversity https://t.co/pOK46VArza
— Habeeb Akande (@Habeeb_Akande) October 13, 2017
Black people would be better off if #DeniseYoungSmith was among the unemployed.
— Margaret Kimberley (@freedomrideblog) October 13, 2017
However, there were also tweets of support for what she had said:
— Joan Marlow Cullen (@JoanieBaloney90) October 16, 2017
Apple’s diversity VP forced to apologize for saying something truthful. https://t.co/RGSL0VVkM6
— Christina Sommers (@CHSommers) October 15, 2017
Denise Young Smith is right, it’s not about Race, Gender, or being part of LGBTQIA+, it’s about life experience that brings true diversity.
— Sammikins (@SammikinsRox) October 16, 2017
TechCrunch obtained an internal Apple email in which Young Smith apologizes to her colleagues:
I have always been proud to work for Apple in large part because of our steadfast commitment to creating an inclusive culture. We are also committed to having the most diverse workforce and our work in this area has never been more important. In fact, I have dedicated my twenty years at Apple to fostering and promoting opportunity and access for women, people of color and the underserved and unheard.
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. I understand why some people took offense. My comments were not representative of how I think about diversity or how Apple sees it. For that, I’m sorry.
More importantly, I want to assure you Apple’s view and our dedication to diversity has not changed.
Understanding that diversity includes women, people of color, LGBTQ people, and all underrepresented minorities is at the heart of our work to create an environment that is inclusive of everyone.
Our commitment at Apple to increasing racial and gender diversity is as strong as it’s ever been. I’m proud of the progress we’ve made, but there is much work to be done. I’m continually reminded of the importance of talking about these issues and learning from each other.
Young Smith is Apple’s first diversity and inclusion officer. Young Smith was appointed to that position in May of this year. Previously she led Human Resources at Apple and also helped the company grow its retail business worldwide.