Apple advances on diversity, slowly

July 14, 2015, 6:18 PM UTC

Apple is making slow progress on the diversity of its workforce.

Global Human Resources Chief Denise Young Smith said at Fortune Brainstorm Tech on Tuesday morning that Apple’s next “diversity report” will come “sometime this summer” and will reveal some progress on recruiting diverse employees. “We did have some movement in our hiring or women and hiring of minorities,” said Young Smith, noting that about 35% of Apple’s recent recruits are women. The upcoming report, which Young Smith claims will have “more transparency” than its report last year, will show an uptick in hiring African-American and Hispanic recruits as well.

A year ago, Apple (AAPL) joined the parade of Silicon Valley companies publicly reporting the gender, race, and ethnicity of its workforce. Recent updates from companies such as Google (GOOG) and Facebook (FB) suggest that no company is yet emerging as a role model for diversity—which gives Apple CEO Tim Cook all the more reason to make diversity a priority.

In charge of 115,000 employees around the world—still mostly male and mostly white—Cook has mounted a veritable crusade to improve diversity not only based on race and gender but also measures such as sexual orientation and veteran status. Young Smith, who stepped up to the top HR job in early 2014, is Cook’s chief agent of change. And while she has been working on Cook’s mission mainly behind the scenes, this professional soprano is lately using her voice more loudly to draw attention to the challenge at Apple and across the tech industry.

In March, Apple announced several partnerships with non-profit organizations to expand its pipeline of women and minorities. For instance, Apple is working with the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, which supports students enrolled in historically black colleges and universities (known as HBCUs), to build a database of African-American grads in computer science. Apple is also partnering with the National Center for Women and Information Technology to improve its access to female technology talent.

Besides allocating more than $50 million to fund those partnerships, the company is also working with the military to provide technology training and specialized on-boarding programs for veterans.

Young Smith spent most of her 18-year-old Apple career in the company’s retail division, where new boss—and former Burburry (BURBY) CEO—Angela Ahrendts has been revamping the business and the workforce. “We can’t afford to leave anyone behind,” says Young Smith. “We need all the talent to continue to innovate.

“We have a tremendous long way to go,” she adds.

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