Why did Apple's head of diversity leave?

From Bloomberg's "Apple's Diversity Chief Leaves as Companies Vow to Tackle Racism" posted late Tuesday:

Apple's head of diversity and inclusion Christie Smith is leaving the iPhone company, according to people familiar with the matter...

Smith joined Apple in 2017 after 16 years at consultancy Deloitte. Unlike her predecessor, who reported directly to the CEO, Smith reported to Apple’s Senior Vice President of Retail and People Deirdre O’Brien. The previous person in the role, Denise Young Smith, lasted only six months and left after apologizing for controversial comments she made about the mostly white makeup of Apple’s executive team.

“Inclusion and diversity are core Apple values and we deeply believe the most diverse teams are the most innovative teams,” Apple said in an emailed statement confirming the news. “Christie Smith will be leaving Apple to spend more time with her family and we wish her well. Our Inclusion and Diversity team continues to report directly to Deirdre O’Brien on the Executive Team.”

Apple said the move was planned two months ago, though a person familiar with the matter said Christie Smith’s last day was Tuesday. She was unique among Apple’s executive team in commuting from Seattle to Cupertino...

Apple hasn’t disclosed its most recent diversity numbers yet, but the company has made some headway in recent years increasing diversity among new hires. More than half of new hires in the U.S. in 2018 were Black, Hispanic or from other historically underrepresented groups in tech. Women accounted for 38% of Apple’s workforce under the age of 30, compared to 33% of the its overall staff.

My take: When it comes to racial diversity at Apple, retail is where the action is.


  1. Jonny Tilney said:
    I am guessing she may have been an exception, as I don’t recall Apple announcing positions being filled by the bean counters, and it surprises me they did. John Browett sprang to mind. (I know he wasn’t from the big four, but he sure was a bean counter!)

    June 17, 2020
  2. Steven Noyes said:
    I always really liked Denise Smith. I found her strong and articulate. It was a loss when she left.

    June 17, 2020
  3. Jerry Doyle said:
    It seems more appropriate for a person of color to be a company’s Chief of Diversity and Inclusion.

    Diversity and Inclusion must start at the top, not at the bottom of the organization if the entity is to succeed in its endeavor to recruit and hire more diverse personnel. If the company has people of color and representatives with disabilities sitting on the governing board and holding senior positions in the organization, then these individuals through their actions can ensure emphasis is given to the hiring, promotion and career development opportunities for diversity and inclusion of staffs. It then filters down through the organization. Apple seems to have given emphasis starting from the bottom of the corporation, and for this reason has struggled to make solid progress, as has most private corporations.

    It has been my observation that government departments and agencies have been historically one of the better entities to address diversity of staffs.

    There long has been controversy that diversity must be done on the basis of the most qualified for the position and not on diversity for diversity sake.

    At some point I wonder when the buck stops with Deidre O’Brien. This is an area under her purview. Apple’s failure to make significant progress starts with her as much as it started with Ms. Christie Smith.

    June 17, 2020
  4. katherine anderson said:
    Surely we’ve learned that to be head of diversity and inclusion is not a position for a white woman of privilege, particularly not at this time when so much attention would be focused on her. I think it’s unfair for analysts and commenters to insinuate Christie Smith did anything but an excellent job.

    June 17, 2020
    • Jerry Doyle said:
      @Katherine Anderson: I agree fully with your comments Katherine. To have a white woman as Chief of Diversity and Inclusion of one’s company does not connote the needed organizational commitment to the cause as one expects to see. It doesn’t pass the smell test and it shocks me that Apple allowed that to happened.

      I only can imagine when Ms. Smith attended conferences to speak on the issue how her lack of minority status went over with people of color as Ms. Smith talked of the need for diversity and inclusion in Apple. It would almost be tantamount to appointing a male to head a women’s rights group.

      Apple is a smart organization, but seeing Ms Christine Smith as head of Diversity and Inclusion caused me to roll-my-eyes. I mean no disrespect for Ms. Smith, but she never should have been given such a juxtaposition role.

      June 17, 2020
    • Rodney Avilla said:
      I have a hard time believing it is OK to judge the value of a person’s abilities based on the color of their skin. Don’t get me wrong. I fully understand that our society tends to operates at a superficial level; that is, when a white police officer kills a black man, it is automatically labeled racist. And I understand why it is that way- our racist history. But hopefully, some day we will mature. There is an old proverb that say ‘the fool believes every word, but the wise look well into the matter’.

      June 17, 2020

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