Apple PR Disputes Diversity Criticism: ‘We Had a Canadian’

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Photo: Stephen Lam/Getty Images

During last week’s Apple Event, the company announced several new products, including a new Apple Watch, a new Mario game for iOS and the much-hyped iPhone 7. The event lasted over two hours — but women only graced the stage to present for about eight minutes out of those hours. Of the women who did present last week, only one (Apple’s vice-president of product management and marketing, Susan Prescott) was an official Apple employee. The other two (Hannah Catmur of ViewRanger and Heather Price of ThisGameStudio) work for outside companies that collaborate with Apple. (I kept a “Lady Count” for the afternoon’s presentations via Twitter, and by the end the results were, um, not great.)

Following the event, Mic’s Melanie Ehrenkranz published a piece entitled “Apple is committed to diversity, but fails on the biggest stage in tech,” breaking down Apple’s consistent lack of gender diversity, despite its recent (and public) moves to increase diversity and minority hiring at the company.

From Mic:

Simply put, Apple’s gender divide, both within the company and onstage in San Francisco, does not represent the company’s consumer base. And incremental progress still yields pathetic results — the numbers don’t lie.

Following publication of her piece, Ehrenkranz (who writes she sent Apple several requests for comment prior to going live with her take) received an “off the record” from an Apple representative explaining, “there was a lot of diversity on that stage that you [Ehrenekranz] don’t recognize.” The representative goes on to cite a “gay man, two African-Americans (Instagram and Nike), a Canadian, and a British woman (Hannah Catmur).” (You can read the email in full on Mic.)

It’s hard to think of a worse way for a publicist to respond, beginning with the fact that typing the words “off the record” at the top of an email doesn’t automatically make it so, as the Mic article explains. Responding to charges of homogeneity by reeling off a list of people by whatever identity category you can name doesn’t seem like a great way to indicate that you understand and are sympathetic to the criticism. Not to mention that of the five “diverse” people Apple listed, only one of them is actually an Apple employee: Tim Cook, Apple’s openly gay CEO. The other four work for outside companies. (ThisGameStudio’s Heather Price is Canadian.) The Apple representative also highlighted that Apple has “progressed farther than any tech company in its hiring of African-Americans and Latinos over the past three years.” Which is true, but, as also noted by Mic with a staff that clocks in at over 50 percent white and over 65 percent male, the company isn’t exactly a bastion of diversity just yet.

Not to mention, if Apple is counting a Canadian and a Brit as diversity, there was a certain Italian man onstage who should probably be recognized too. (Introduced by Nintendo’s Shigeru Miyamoto, who is Japanese.)