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Apple’s first diversity chief is leaving after less than a year

Denise Young Smith, Apple’s first VP of inclusion and diversity, will leave Apple at the end of the year, according to TechCrunch. The announcement comes less than a year after Smith took the position, which happened back in May. Smith ran Apple’s human resources division before that and has been with the company for 20 years, making this a surprising departure.

Apple has picked Christie Smith, a 17-year veteran of audit and consulting firm Deloitte, to take over the position next year. Apple confirmed the departure and hire in a statement to TechCrunch, saying, “We deeply believe that diversity drives innovation. 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.”

News of the departure comes just a month after Apple’s inaugural diversity chief made some surprising and controversial comments on diversity while speaking at a conference. “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,” she said, according to Quartz.

The comment was widely picked up and seemed to defend Apple’s overwhelmingly white and male leadership at a time when the company’s makeup is glaringly uneven. Smith later apologized for the remarks in an email to Apple’s staff.

Apple’s diversity is improving, but it’s still far from where it should be and is moving at a slow pace. Some of that is because the company has to wait for turnover and new hires in order to change things, so it’s hard to tell how much of an impact Smith has had during her time in the role. But from the looks of things, Apple’s leadership team doesn’t seem to have been happy with the ways things were going, as this seems like a very sudden departure.


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