A flashy new smart watch isn’t all Apple has up its sleeve. The company is donating more than $50 million to organizations that aim to get more women, minorities, and veterans working in tech.
In an exclusive interview with Fortune, Apple’s human resources chief Denise Young Smith said the company is partnering with several non-profit organizations on a multi-year, multi-million-dollar effort to increase the pipeline of women, minorities, and veterans in the technology industry—and, of course, at Apple.
“We wanted to create opportunities for minority candidates to get their first job at Apple,” said Young Smith, who took over as its head of HR a little over a year ago. (Before her current role, the longtime Apple exec spent a decade running recruiting for the retail side of the business.) “There is tremendous upside to that and we are dogged about the fact that we can’t innovate without being diverse and inclusive.”
Young Smith likes to say that diversity extends race and gender—Apple wants its employee base to also reflect different lifestyles and sexual orientations. (Last fall, CEO Tim Cook publicly acknowledged that he is gay—the first Fortune500 chief executive to do so while holding the title.) But, at least for now, its diversity initiatives are mostly focused on expanding its pipeline of women and minorities.
To that end, the company is partnering with the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, a non-profit that supports students enrolled in public, historically black colleges and universities (known as HBCUs). These schools include North Carolina A&T State University, Howard University, and Grambling State University (where Young Smith earned a bachelor’s degree in communications and journalism in 1978). All told, there are 100 HBCUs across the country—47 of them are considered public—and collectively they graduate nearly 20% of African-Americans who earn undergraduate degrees.
“Historically, other organizations have provided scholarship dollars or focused on whatever area matters most to them,” says Johnny Taylor, president and CEO of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund. “What differentiates this partnership with Apple is that it hits on everything that we do—it is the most comprehensive program ever offered to an HBCU organization.”
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