Tech giant Apple's first-ever vice president of diversity and inclusion apologized over the weekend for suggesting at a recent panel discussion that white men can be diverse, too, not just minorities.
Denise Young Smith, who Quartz described as "Silicon Valley's most powerful black woman," said earlier this month at the One Young World Summit in Bogotá, Colombia that her focus on diversity goes beyond minorities.
"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," Young Smith said at the panel discussion moderated by Quartz.
The comment followed Young Smith's broader response to a question about where she would focus her diversity efforts.
"I focus on everyone," she 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."
Quartz noted that the audience applauded Young Smith's answer, but she has since come out and apologized for her comments. On Saturday, Young Smith issued an apology to her Apple team members for "some comments" she made during the panel discussion.
TechCrunch obtained Young Smith's email, in which she wrote, "I regret the choice of words I used to make this point," and that she "understand[s] why some people took offense."
Young Smith did not specify which remarks she regrets, but her comments about white men received the most backlash.
Here is Young Smith's email to her Apple team members in full:
I have always been proud to work for Apple in large part because of our steadfast commitment to creating an inclusive culture. We are also committed to having the most diverse workforce and our work in this area has never been more important. In fact, I have dedicated my twenty years at Apple to fostering and promoting opportunity and access for women, people of color, and the underserved and unheard.
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.
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.
More importantly, I want to assure you Apple's view and our dedication to diversity has not changed.
Understanding that diversity includes women, people of color, LGBTQ people, and all underrepresented minorities is at the heart of our work to create an environment that is inclusive of everyone.
Our commitment at Apple to increasing racial and gender diversity is as strong as it's ever been. I'm proud of the progress we've made, but there is much work to be done. I’m continually reminded of the importance of talking about these issues and learning from each other.
TechCrunch noted that nine percent of Apple's total employees are black, 12 percent are Hispanic, 19 percent are Asian, and 56 percent are white.