An overhaul of iTunes is not the only thing Apple unveiled at its worldwide developer conference this week in San Francisco. In a big nod toward diversity, it also unveiled some of its most powerful female executives, letting them take the stage for the first time in years (and without even forcing them to wear black mock turtlenecks). The public is largely applauding the move, but some reactions show more skepticism. In a field so male-dominated as tech, is this enough, or is it just a pat on the head?
The two female executives who have drawn this attention are Jennifer Bailey, a vice president in charge of Apple Pay, and Susan Prescott, also a vice president, who demonstrated developments in Apple's News App. It's needless to say that they are each power players in their own rights. Bailey comes to Apple after being at Netscape since the 1990s, where she became a veteran of their e-commerce strategy. Prescott came to Apple over a decade ago after scaling the ladder as a marketer in Adobe's cross media publishing.
Jennifer Bailey spoke during the keynote at WWDC, announcing the UK launch of Apple Pay as well as partnerships with Pinterest and Square. Susan Prescott presented a new iOS 9 feature to be called, simply, "News" that will likely be a competitor for other news apps like NY Times Now and Facebook's recent roll-out of Instant Articles. The speeches represent the first time since 2007 when females took the stage at WWDC. The last to appear were two developers from other companies, and super model Christy Turlington.
It's easy to look at such a calculated diversity move as admirable. More diversity, great! But the rest of us know that tech still has a long way to go on the diversity front, where its CEOs and executives are often white males. At Apple alone, 80 percent of its tech staff are male, while 72 percent of its executives are. And it must be acknowledged that the only people of color who appeared on stage were not Apple power players at all, but musicians Drake, and Abel Tesfaye of "The Weekend."
Emily Peck, blogging for Huffington Post, argues that we might hold our applause, that this is "just the beginning." Citing the company's reluctance to formulate and release a menstruation tracking app as part of its HealthKit, she says: "Apple, the biggest and most profitable tech firm on earth, needs more women -- not just because it looks terrible for the company on the diversity front, but because it needs to consider all the people who buy its products."
Davey Alba, writing for Wired, notes, of Bailey and Prescott: "It would be wrong to question their credibility or suggest that they were only being featured because they are women. But it will be a triumph when one day, it is simply considered normal for men and women alike to stand in front of an audience and act as the very public faces of a company without any need for discussion of tokenism, or of their status and credibility. But that will only happen when diversity in the tech industry becomes the norm."
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