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Apple Pledges 50 Million To Nonprofit Groups To Help Boost Diversity In Tech Industry

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Apple announced on Tuesday that it is donating a sum of $50 million to a couple of non-profit organizations with the goal of encouraging more individuals from minority groups to work toward a career in technology.

In an exclusive interview with Fortune magazine, Apple's head of human resources Denise Young Smith says Apple is donating $40 million to the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, which provides support for students attending historically black colleges and universities (HCBUs) such as Virginia State University, Alabama State University, and Grambling State University in Louisiana, where Smith earned her bachelor's degree in communications and journalism in 1978.

The partnership will also create Apple internships for particularly talented students, says Johnny Taylor, CEO of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund.

"People are at Harvard and MIT looking for their students," Taylor says. "But Apple said there are some really talented individuals at these (HCBU) schools."

The remaining $10 million will go to the National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT) to help the non-profit organization increase the number of recipients of NCWIT's scholarships and to reach at least 10,000 girls in middle school over the next few years.

This is not the first time Apple partnered with the organization and other technology companies including Google, Microsoft and Symantec as well as heavyweights the likes of Walmart and the National Basketball Association have donated large sums to the group, but NCWIT co-founder and CEO Lucy Sanders says the new partnership is, in true Apple style, unique because it is "thoughtful."

"A lot of activities are one and done, but this is a longitudinal experience throughout the pipeline," says Sanders.

Smith says that Apple is also in discussions with military organizations to develop a program that will train military veterans interested in a career in technology after their service and bring them on board. She also says that, although the effects of these investments will likely not be seen until the next few years, Apple hopes to increase diversity for the broader technology industry, not just for its own workforce.

"In any of these programs, we're really trying to provide focus, impact and a ripple effect - not just on Apple," Smith says.

Interestingly, Apple's own ranks are largely dominated by young, white males. In its diversity report, Apple CEO Tim Cook, who last year openly acknowledged that he is gay, said he was not satisfied with Apple's figures and that the company has 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," Cook said.

At its Spring Forward event on Monday, Apple hired model Christy Turlington, a non-Apple employee, to demonstrate the Apple Watch, which was met with criticism by diversity advocates who say Apple sent the wrong message when it decided against having senior vice president for retail and online stores Angela Ahrendts, whom sources say was instrumental in developing the Apple Watch, going onstage to introduce the new device. 

Photo: Mike Deerkoski | Flickr

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