Apple’s Denise Young Smith, the newly minted Vice President of Diversity at the tech giant, has caused outrage in the industry over comments she made in defense of diversity of thought. Silicon Valley has been in an all-out push to bring in more women and minorities, so when Smith said, “I focus on everyone. Diversity is the human experience,” without focusing specifically on race or gender, liberal publications criticized her.
Smith ultimately apologized for the sentiment.
Smith, an African-American woman, continued,
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 blonde 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. The issue is representation and mix and bringing all the voices into the room that can contribute to the outcome of any situation.
GQ writer Jay Willis declared the idea of diversity including more than skin color to be “puzzling.”
“With all due respect to Young Smith: Diversity is not the ‘human experience,'” wrote Willis. Adding companies use the term “diversity” over affirmative action because “Many companies and schools have sensibly responded by recasting the problem as one of ‘diversity,’ a squishier, more inclusive-sounding term that is less likely to trigger immediate protestations of ‘reverse discrimination’ from outraged white dudes like James Damore.”
Damore is the Google employee fired for suggesting the company consider including diversity of thought in its hiring, not just race and gender.
Tech Crunch complained:
The phrasing is very poor. On the face of it the meaning is that there really is no need to look beyond any sort of seeming homogeneity within Silicon Valley’s tech workforce (which is mostly white and overwhelmingly male). Instead, the phrase appears to allow for Apple to make diversity and inclusion hiring decisions based solely on diversity of thought. There’s nothing inherently wrong with diverse thinking, but treating it with primary importance eliminates the many benefits of a racial-and-gender-diverse workforce and many see it as, frankly, a complete cop-out in trying to solve a very real problem.
Smith apologized Friday for her comments. “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,” she said in a statement. “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.”