Apple has appointed Denise Young Smith as its first-ever VP of diversity and inclusion, 9 to 5 Mac first reported. TechCrunch and @techlatino has since confirmed that Smith officially started in this role yesterday.
Smith previously served as head of worldwide human resources at Apple for three years, and has been involved in diversity programs at Apple for years. In her new role, Smith will report directly to Apple CEO Tim Cook. Regarding what happens to the human resources department, sources say the department will report to Apple SVP and CFO Luca Maestri.
Apple’s last head of diversity and inclusion, Jeffrey Siminoff, only held a director role. Given where Smith’s role falls into the leadership structure, Smith will be able to have more of an impact on Apple’s diversity and inclusion initiatives. Sources say this is a “significant upscaling of responsibility” in comparison to the role Siminoff held. Sources say Apple employees view this as a positive move for the company.
“@techlatino applauds Apple as they have stepped up their initiatives in Diversity and Inclusion,” said Jose Marquez, CEO of @techLatino: The National Association of Latinos in Information Sciences and Technology. “By naming Denise Young Smith, Apple not only made an excellent choice to lead this department, but has made as serious commitment to take diversity to another level in Silicon Valley.
Worldwide, Apple is 68 percent male and 32 percent female (In 2015, Apple was 69 percent male and 31 percent female), according to its latest diversity report. In the U.S., Apple is 56 percent white, 19 percent Asian, 12 percent Hispanic and 9 percent black.
“Our inclusion and diversity efforts are critically important to Apple’s future,” an Apple spokesperson said in a statement. “Denise’s years of experience, expertise and passion will help us make an even greater impact in this area.”
Sources say the position will mean Apple will be without a permanent VP of HR as Luca Maestri, the company’s SVP and CFO, steps in to fill the role temporarily.
In recent years Smith has been in the media to address issues of diversity at Apple and also relayed diversity news to employees, and she’s been involved in running the diversity programs before her official title change. Apple’s previous head of diversity and inclusion Jeffrey Siminoff held a director role from 2013 until January 2016 before leaving to Twitter. He reported to Denise who reported to Tim Cook, but now the Inclusion and Diversity team headed by Smith will report directly to Cook, making the new VP position the first to do so.
Smith has been at Apple for over 20 years and was first promoted to VP of worldwide HR back in 2014 from her previous role as head of HR for just Apple’s retail stores, a role that Steve Jobs handpicked her for during the early days of Apple’s retail efforts. She replaced Apple’s then HR head Joel Podolny who switched to focusing full-time on developing Apple University. Prior to that she served as Senior Director of Human Resources for Worldwide Operations and Corporate Employee Relations at Apple from 1997 to 2000.
Apple first started publicly reporting diversity data in its annual Diversity Report back in 2014 and released its latest report last August. Since then it has launched a number of initiatives as CEO Tim Cook continues to be outspoken on various topics publicly. Earlier this year Apple reportedly resisted a shareholder proposal to boost diversity at board and senior management level, but it’s clear the company isn’t standing still and has its own plans to increase efforts as it introduces the new position for Smith.
Apple has yet to update its Executive Profiles page where Smith is currently still listed with her old HR position.