Apple’s vice president of diversity and inclusion has apologized for telling a recent group in Bogota, Colombia, that “12 white blue-eyed blond men” may have an adequate amount of diversity depending on their backgrounds.
Denise Young Smith, who is black, attended the One Young World Summit Oct. 4-7 and told those in attendance that she tries to “focus on everyone” as a means of improving Apple’s work environment.
Online outrage over her message, however, prompted an apology memo, which Tech Crunch reported at the weekend.
“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,” the executive wrote. “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.”
Tech Crunch noted that while her apology was vague, negative feedback that prompted the memo pertained to a question on how much she prioritizes other black women while on the job.
“I focus on everyone,” Ms. Smith replied. “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 or whatever because that means they’re carrying that around … because that means that we are carrying that around on our foreheads.”
“And I’ve often told people a story — there can be 12 white blue-eyed blond 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,” she added. “The issue is representation and mix and bringing all the voices into the room that can contribute to the outcome of any situation. So I focus on everyone, but I also focus on allies and alliances because to [Black Lives Matter activist DeRay Mckesson’s] point, there’s an incredible amount of power in those who have platforms or those who have the benefit of greater representation to tell the stories of those who do not. So whenever we can accomplish that, then that is a win for everyone.”
Tech Crunch also lamented Ms. Smith’s wording, saying that it was an indicator that she treats diversity of thought as her “primary importance.”
“‘Diversity of thought’ has long been a lever used by critics of the concept of [diversity and inclusion] work to push back against meaningful diversity efforts,” the website wrote. “Already this week, some critics of the concept of inclusive diversity work (racists, men who believe they are inherently superior, etc.) were pointing at Smith’s comments with an air of smugness — likely not her intended effect.”
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