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Apple hones diversity push with new VP role

Denise Young Smith, Apple's head of HR, will now oversee the company's diversity and inclusion efforts.

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Denise Young Smith, Apple's former HR chief, will head up diversity efforts.

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It looks like Apple is getting more serious about diversity.

The iPhone maker has created a new vice president position to tackle efforts that have to do with inclusion. Apple's former HR chief, Denise Young Smith, is taking the role. She will report directly to Apple CEO Tim Cook.

Previously, the job of heading diversity programs went to Jeffrey Siminoff. He only held the title of director, though, and reported to Smith. The role has been vacant since he left for Twitter in January 2016. Before Smith's appointment, Apple's top leadership team -- the people who report to Cook -- didn't have anyone specifically focused on diversity.

Apple hasn't yet updated its executive leadership page to include Smith's new responsibilities, but she confirmed her new role on her LinkedIn page. She took on the job Monday, according to someone familiar with Apple's actions.

"Our inclusion and diversity efforts are critically important to Apple's future," Apple said in a statement. "Denise's years of experience, expertise and passion will help us make an even greater impact in this area."

The company hasn't yet named a new head of HR. Until it does, those employees will report to Financial Chief Luca Maestri, according to a person familiar with Apple's plans.

Apple and other tech companies have been trying to diversify their workforce, which includes boosting the number of female and minority employees. Under Cook's leadership, Apple has put itself at the front of social issues like LGBT rights, racial equality and the tech industry's need to improve workforce diversity. Still, Apple's latest diversity report didn't show much progress. The number of female employees rose only 1 percentage point from the previous year, to 32 percent.

Smith's new role comes as Apple faces criticism over its new headquarters. The $5 billion campus has custom-built door handles, thousands of trees, and a 100,000-square-foot fitness and wellness facility that boasts a two-story yoga room covered in custom distressed stone. What the campus doesn't have, though, is a day care center, something experts say could boost the number of women working for the company.

Smith has held several HR roles since joining Apple in 1997, including running HR for Apple's worldwide operations and corporate employee relations team. Her most recent role before becoming the head of diversity and inclusion was overseeing worldwide human resources, which involved attracting and retaining top talent at Apple. For over 10 years, she also sat on the leadership team that built Apple's retail organization. Apple co-founder Steve Jobs tasked her with hiring retail workers when the company was starting its Apple store operations. Before Apple, Smith consulted with early-stage startups about HR and other topics.

9to5Mac earlier Tuesday spotted the appointment.

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