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Apple shifts leadership page to showcase diverse VPs

Vivek Wadhwa, an expert on diversity, says the tech giant is taking the right steps in employing more women and minorities.

Apple updated its executive leadership page to include vice presidents such as Lisa Jackson, the head of environmental initiatives. Screenshot by Shara Tibken/CNET

Three days after Apple released its diversity report and CEO Tim Cook said he was "not satisfied" by the figures, the company refreshed its executive leadership page to show it does have some diversity.

The Cupertino, Calif., electronics giant added five vice presidents, including two African American women, to the executive team page on its website late last week. Up to now, the page included photos and bios of only Cook and his nine senior vice presidents, as well as a list of Apple's board of directors. The earlier page looked very male and white -- much like the overall data provided by Apple on Tuesday in its diversity report.

The vice presidents added to Apple's site are Lisa Jackson, Apple's head of environmental initiatives, and Denise Young Smith, vice president of worldwide human resources. Also included were Paul Deneve, vice president of special projects; Joel Podolny, head of Apple's training program, Apple University; and Johny Srouji, the vice president who leads Apple's chip development.

Apple has more vice presidents than the five listed, but those included on its site report directly to Cook and oversee divisions, rather than report to senior vice presidents and other top Apple executives.

The change, first spotted Friday by sites such as MacRumors, looked like a public-relations stunt to some market watchers, but others say it shows Apple's efforts to be more open about its diversity and its efforts to recruit more women and people of color.

"Whether these are really senior executives or not, I don't know, but they're at least looking at themselves closely," said Vivek Wadhwa, a noted expert on diversity. "That's a big step forward."

Wadhwa serves as a fellow at the Arthur & Toni Rembe Rock Center for Corporate Governance at Stanford University, and director of research at the Center for Entrepreneurship and Research Commercialization at the Pratt School of Engineering at Duke University. He has spoken and written publicly many times about the diversity issues in Silicon Valley and was even called "the Carrot Top of academic sources" by Twitter CEO Dick Costolo after Wadhwa criticized the social-media site's lack of women in management.

Apple, which disclosed last week that 70 percent of its 98,000 employees are male, has acknowledged its shortcomings. Only 28 percent of its global leadership team is female, and when it comes to tech positions, only 20 percent of Apple's worldwide workers are female. That's on par with rivals such as Google, Facebook, and Twitter, where about seven out of 10 employees are male.

Apple declined to comment about the changes to the executive leadership page

Cook last week said on the company's diversity site that "As CEO, I'm not satisfied with the numbers on this page. They're not new to us, and we've been working hard for quite some time to improve them. We are making progress, and we're committed to being as innovative in advancing diversity as we are in developing our products."

Apple -- and most of the companies in Silicon Valley -- have been criticized many times in the past for their lack of diversity. All say they're taking steps to fix the problem by promoting education and other actions. Tech companies are increasingly being pressured to add more females and people of color to their oftentimes mainly white male staffs. Apple has been under fire for having little diversity on its board, and Twitter also faced criticism for having no female board members right before it went public late last year.

Cook has tried to inject more diversity in Apple's management during his time as CEO. He promoted Eddy Cue, a Cuban, to his role as senior vice president of Internet software and services in October 2012. Cook also named Angela Ahrendts, the former Burberry CEO, as Apple's head of online and in-store retail. In addition, he appointed Susan Wagner, a director at BlackRock, to Apple's board in place of long-running director Bill Campbell.

Apple's efforts to diversity are serious, Wadhwa said, and that's evident from both Cook's comments and his recent hires.

"I don't think Tim Cook is messing around here," he said. "He isn't someone I would criticize on this front."