Apple’s VP of diversity and inclusion Denise Young Smith is leaving at the end of the year

Apple’s vice president of diversity and inclusion Denise Young Smith is leaving the company less than a year into her job.

Young Smith, who was promoted to the newly created position in May, will leave at the end of the year to become the new executive-in-residence at Cornell Tech.  At Cornell Tech, Young Smith will work with students to build an early career-stage awareness of inclusive leadership and diverse talent,” according to the Ivy League university’s blog post from November 7.

Apple’s pick for Young Smith’s successor is another Smith: Christie Smith, who was the head of human resources at Menlo Park-based cancer detection startup Grail since May, according to her LinkedIn profile. Before Grail, Smith worked at Deloitte.

“We deeply believe that diversity drives innovation,” said Apple in a statement provided to this news organization. “We’re thrilled to welcome an accomplished leader like Christie Smith to help us continue the progress we’ve made toward a more diverse workplace.”

Apple has been looking for Young Smith’s replacement for months, according to TechCrunch, which first reported Christie Smith’s appointment on Thursday.

“I’m taking on this project because it will allow me to address the deep sense of urgency I feel to help evolve the thinking of our current and future tech leaders,” wrote Young Smith on the Cornell blog post. “By instilling the value of true diversity and inclusion into Cornell Tech’s unique base of students and faculty, we will not only make an impact on the institution but also, and most important, on the next generation of leaders as they go out into the world.”

In Young Smith’s short tenure, her most famous moment was an on-stage gaffe she made at the One Young World Summit in Bogotá, Colombia in October. She said that “12 white blue-eyed blonde men in a room” can provide diversity as they bring “a different life experience and life perspective to the conversation.” The comment generated a backlash against Young Smith, and she apologized to Apple employees in an internal email.

“I regret the choice of words I used to make this point,” wrote Young Smith. “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.”

Earlier this month, Apple released its 2017 diversity figures, which showed to little to no changes in gender and race demographics inside the company. Like in 2016, Apple’s overall female employees constituted 32 percent of the company. Hispanic and African American employees saw a 1 percent uptick from 21 percent to 22 percent in 2017.


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  • Lafayette Escadrill

    She didn’t think the right way. Apple’s problem was how to let a minority go. If she were white. she would have been out the door fast than a New York minute.