Apple announced that they are giving the position of Diversity to former VP, Worldwide Human Resources, Denise Young Smith. Which means, Apple has made the position of diversity an actual position. And not just any position, but specifically in the role of a Vice President. Typically, these types of positions and initiatives fall within the Human Resources Department, and it did for Apple for quite some time. However, Apple is now making it a stand-alone position. Obviously, it will need to be tied to HR in many ways, but what does this move mean for Apple? Many associate the idea of diversity with the concept of affirmative action. Hiring someone because they company has to in order to fill a quota. But diversity is about your workforce reflecting the population that you are serving.
Many companies are making the move to becoming more diverse. After all, would you consider buying their product if they weren’t diverse? Let’s look at it from a different angle. Would you support a company that knowingly does harmful things to their employees? So why would you support a company that doesn’t believe in diversity? Apple’s move to create a permanent, more prominent position is a smart one on their part. Why? Because Apple is going to be seen not only as an innovative tech giant, but also as a place that values its employees. While this might not be their goal, but it gives the appearance that they have a softer side.
So what is diversity exactly? As I mentioned, many think that it’s about a hiring quota. Bringing people into the company who look a certain way. That might have been diversity in the 80s or 90s, but it’s not diversity of today. I’ve talked about this before where a company will hire a person because of “fit”. They fit well with the culture and the inner dynamics, but it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re the most qualified for the job. Working in Human Resources myself, I have seen this a lot. I don’t agree with it, because qualified candidates are getting over looked. There is something to be said, however, about hiring for “fit”. I don’t completely disagree with it, but it doesn’t always work from a diversity perspective.
And what is Apple already doing about diversity? Well, they have started hiring more diverse people. Which, on the surface might seem like quota filling, but my assumption is that they’re looking at the qualifications, and not just skin colour or ethnic background. I am making an assumption, but it’s one in Apple’s favour. Giving them the benefit of the doubt. In Canada, the Federal Government has an equity program where you identify if you are a woman, a person with a disability, a minority, or an Aboriginal person. What this does is allows the candidates to be short listed based on both their qualifications, and diversity. Note – there is a definition of minority, of which I don’t know off hand. Either way, this might be a similar strategy that Apple is taking.
As of August 2016, Apple was already seeing an increase in diversity numbers. Including: underrepresented minorities accounting for 27% of new hires. This category includes Black, Hispanic, Native American, Native Hawaiian, and Other Pacific Islander, and was based on data for the previous 12 months. Which is great news, right? Well it is, but I honestly have a hard time “celebrating” these kinds of initiatives. Which might sound like I’m anti-diversity, but I’m not. The truth is that I have a hard time wrapping my brain around the fact that this is something we need to be cognizant of. Diversity should just happen. It shouldn’t be something that we have to develop programs in order to encourage.
I think these kinds of programs are great. Especially if it’s the only way to encourage companies to hire a more diverse workforce. But my struggle is with the fact that we live in a world where people are categorized based on their ethnicity. Yes, I’m looking at the world through rose coloured glasses today. We don’t live in that world, so diversity initiatives are the only way. I am happy that Apple has made diversity such a prominent position, and I hope that other companies will follow suit. I also hope that one day we won’t be looking at diversity from a position of something we “have” to do, but rather, it will just be part of the day to day business.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not naïve. I know the kind of world that we live in. But I also know from experience how hard it is to change the culture of an organization. I work in an area of diversity and every day I hear an excuse or a reason why we don’t need to change the system. I’m at a point in my life where I’m tired of hearing these kinds of things. So I apologize if I come across harsh when it comes to these types of initiatives. They are great. They make a lot of positive change. I’ve seen it first hand. I just wish that it wasn’t viewed in such a negative way.
Why do we have to change our hiring practices? This isn’t a legislated practice so why do we have to do it? I might be too impatient. Cultural change won’t happen over night. I am going to continue to do my best to change the way we view diversity and I hope that you do the same.