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

Denise Young Smith discusses her new role.
Denise Young Smith discusses her new role.
Image: One Young World
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Apple just got its first head of diversity and inclusion in May. But already, Denise Young Smith, one of the most powerful and senior black executives in tech, is planning to leave the company at the end of the year, according to TechCrunch.

The VP role at Apple will be taken over by Christie Smith, who worked at Deloitte until earlier this year. Smith’s LinkedIn page suggests that she has already taken over the post. Apple was not immediately available for comment when Quartz contacted the company over the report.

Last month, Young Smith caused a whirlwind of controversy when she was describing her work, saying that she thought it was possible for a group of white men to represent diversity by having a range of life experiences.

Speaking on a panel discussion on fighting racial injustice—moderated by Quartz—at the One Young World Summit in Bogotá, Colombia last month, Young Smith said: “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.”

She went on to say “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.” The issue, Young Smith explains, “is representation and mix.”

Even though the comments were met with audience applause in Bogotá, less than a week later, Young Smith issued an apology to her colleagues over the comments. ”I regret the choice of words I used to make this point,” she wrote in an email obtained by TechCrunch, “I understand why some people took offense. My comments were not representative of how I think about diversity or how Apple sees it.”

Young Smith has been at Apple for 20 years, and was most recently the global head of HR. According to TechCrunch, her plans to leave Apple might predate the comments she made in Colombia. Young Smith had begun discussing the next phase of her career with CEO Tim Cook about a year ago, TechCrunch reports citing an unnamed source. The search for a successor had begun a few months ago, they say.

Last week, Cornell Tech announced that Young Smith would become the new executive-in-residence from January to work with students to build “an early career-stage awareness of inclusive leadership and diverse talent.”