Apple doubles down on diversity efforts after controversies, hiring Denise Young Smith in newly created role

Apple enlists longtime employee as first VP of diversity and inclusion following 2016 criticisms

Apple has enlisted longtime employee Denise Young Smith to head up its diversity efforts in the newly-created role of vice-president of diversity and inclusion.

Smith, who has been at Apple since 1997 will report directly to chief executive Tim Cook, having moved over from her previous post as vice-president of global talent and human resources.

"Our inclusion and diversity efforts are critically important to Apple’s future. Denise’s years of experience, expertise and passion will help us make an even greater impact in this area," said the company in a statement.

Like many Sillcon Valley giants, Apple has long been accused of missing the mark when it comes to diversity. It hasn't had anyone overseeing its efforts since the departure of Jeffrey Siminoff in 2015; he had served as director of inclusion and diversity since 2013 but was not awarded seat at the leadership table in the same way Smith will be.

The tech behemoth's 2016 diversity report indicated that its global workforce is 68% male and 32% female - a minor improvement on the 69% to 31% split it outlined in the 2015 version of the report. In the US, over half (56%) of its employees are white, 19% are Asian, 12% are Hispanic and 9% are black.

Last year, the company's office culture was accused of being "sexist" and "toxic," with millennial magazine Mic publishing an internal 50-page email thread from a former Apple employee. The employee in question complained about the behaviour of her male counterparts, saying she had escalated the issue with chief executive Cook and alleging that the boss had failed to respond to her concerns.

Apple declined to comment on specific claims in Mic's story, but issued a statement to the title saying: "Apple is committed to treating everyone with dignity and respect. When we receive complaints or hear that employees are concerned about their work environment, we take it very seriously and we investigate claims thoroughly — as we have each of the matters you describe."

When it unveiled its diversity stats last year Apple dovetailed the report with a promise that all US employees would receive equal pay for equal work regardless of gender or race.

In March this year, Apple shareholders rejected a proposal that would have required the company to improve diversity in its highest ranks. The proposal, submitted by shareholders, stipulated the firm would have to “adopt an accelerated recruitment policy [...] to increase the diversity of senior management and its board of directors," but it was vetoed by 95% of investors.

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