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  • Writer's pictureCarolina MIlanesi

In 2021, Women Filled 47% Of U.S. Based Open Leadership Roles At Apple

Apple released its diversity numbers for 2021 and women stand out as the underrepresented group the high-tech employer made the most progress with. Almost a year from her hiring, I spoke to Barbara H. Whye, Apple's V.P. of Inclusion and Diversity, about her work, the progress and what she referred to as "places of vulnerability." "At Apple, we are really trying to make sure that we're reflective of the world around us and in order for us to be representative of the future, we have to start that work right now. We must dig really deeply both on the representation because you can't include who you don't have, but also on inclusion, specifically around retention because you're going to lose quickly who you don't include," Whye says before digging into some of the numbers. If Apple events are something to go by as far as how Apple wants to be more reflective of the world around it, we have certainly seen more diversity on stage since moving to a digital format due to the pandemic. Events are, of course, a performance. Still, the women on stage have grown in numbers and seniority, reflecting the world around Apple and, more importantly, the work on representation and progression inside the company. That said, I long for more moments like the Bozama Saint John's presentation at Apple's Developer Conference in 2013. "Boz," a Black woman leading marketing for Apple Music, was not just on stage but owned that stage and commanded the room while at the same time calling out the lack of diversity in it.

Apple has been reporting its diversity numbers since 2014 when its workforce was under 93 thousand employees when women represented 30% of the worldwide workforce, 20% filled technical roles and 28% had leadership positions. At the end of 2021 and a workforce counting over 165 thousand people, Apple had the highest number of women ever across its employees worldwide. With an increase of 89% since 2014, women now represent 34.8% of the workforce, holding 24.4% technical roles and 31.4% leadership positions.

Over the past year, Apple hired more Black and Hispanic/Latinx team members in the U.S. than ever before. Looking at the U.S. workforce overall, 50% of Apple's employees come from underrepresented groups, from women to Black, Hispanic, and Latinx. Black employees now make up 9.4% of Apple's U.S. workforce, and Hispanic and Latinx team members comprise 14.8% of Apple's U.S. employees.

In Apple Retail, since January 2021, 58% of open leadership roles globally have been filled by women. In the U.S., 23% of open Retail leadership roles were filled by Black candidates and 18% by Hispanic and Latinx candidates. Apple Retail has always been the most diverse part of the company's workforce and helped drive diversity numbers overall. So it is encouraging to see some improvement in technical roles and R&D. In R&D, 34 percent of open leadership roles were filled by women globally. In addition, employees from underrepresented communities filled 38 percent of open R&D leadership roles in the U.S. Black representation in technical roles is one area of vulnerability where Whye would like to see more progress as the percentage actually dropped from 6% in 2014 to 5.5% in 2021.

"We know leaders have responsibilities in this space for hiring and also for progression and retention. Some people refer to middle management as the "frozen middle," but I truly believe middle managers move the score. So it's important for us to see that," said Whye. Inclusion and diversity, explains Whye, must be top of mind from the very beginning of the hiring process using inclusive hiring methodology diverse interview panels, but it must be supported by making sure that there is equitable access to opportunities for internal movement all while fostering an inclusive environment so that talent can be retained.

Apple offers different opportunities for its employees to grow within the company. For example, the Career Experience program offers Retail and AppleCare employees the chance to spend time in other teams such as engineering and marketing. In addition, all employees have access to Apple University classes, tools, and resources on topics focused on helping employees develop influence and learn to lead. In the U.S., the courses also include the issue of inclusion, race and justice.

It is interesting to see Apple give details on its under-30 workforce. However, in the highly competitive environment, the technology sector is in at the moment, it is a good way for Apple to show they are attracting more diverse talent and setting itself up to have a more diverse leadership in the future as this talent matures. Sixty-four percent of under-30 employees in the U.S. are from underrepresented communities, with 40% holding an R&D position. Globally, within the under-30 employees, women represent 42% of the workforce, with 35% in R&D roles. Of course, to some extent, these numbers also reflect the growing diversity we see in the world and the U.S. population in particular. Yet Whye is very conscious that having this bright and diverse talent is only half the battle. Retaining them is the key to the brighter future: "We're focused on retaining our best talent and for me, this work is really rooted in three pillars, starting first with accountability," she says. So what is the appeal to work at Apple for this demographic that has proven to be more purpose-driven than previous generations? For Whye, there is no doubt. It is the ability to do your best work. "As an engineer, part of the attraction to the company was that Apple is as an engineering and innovation playground. You're working around some of the most talented and brilliant people in the industry. You're innovating your way out of many things to bring the best products to life. And having more inclusive and representative teams makes it all that stronger."

For Whye, representation and inclusion very much intersect with Apple's ability to create inclusive products. "When we do not pause to intentionally include, we unintentionally exclude," she says. The more representative the teams are and the more intentionally inclusive Apple is, the more that inclusive mentality will be reflected externally. This has always been true of hardware, but as Apple gets more into content, whether for Apple T.V., Apple Music or Apple Arcade, the scope inclusion and representation will have to be more far-reaching.

The diversity numbers Apple shared tell a story of progress. However, I would offer that the numbers that were not shared – Black women as a proportion of any of the numbers they cite, the retention rate among underrepresented communities, just to name two - might tell a story of vulnerability. Yet, having followed for quite some time Barbara H. Whye and her passionate and relentless work to bring diversity equity and inclusion in the world, I could not be more confident Apple has the right person for the job. Let's hope someone is taking care of her retention strategy so she can be empowered to make Apple the best and the first even when it comes to breaking diversity and inclusion targets.



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