Apple puts women upfront
At firm’s developers confab, female execs command center stage for key presentations.
SAN FRANCISCO — Apple Music, new operating systems and a smarter Siri were front and center at Apple Inc.’s Worldwide Developers Conference, but it wasn’t a new product that got people talking — it was women.
During its keynote presentation Monday, Jennifer Bailey, Apple’s vice president of Internet services, and Susan Prescott, vice president of product marketing, took to the stage to announce new developments with Apple Pay and a news reading app. It was the first time Apple has had female executives on stage at any of its major events since at least the launch of the first iPhone in 2007.
In recent years, Apple has been criticized for parading out only top male executives at its iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch and developers events, particularly as Silicon Valley as a whole dealt with gender disparity and discrimination issues.
Members of the tech community described the move as a huge development for a company as high-profile as Apple, which has only had three women on stage at its news conferences since 2007 (two of whom were third-party developers and one who was supermodel Christy Turlington).
“It’s very significant because you have a very wellintentioned and purposeful effort on the part of a tech giant to raise the profile of their female executives at their premier public event,” said Jonathan Sposato, an angel investor, serial entrepreneur and chief executive of photo editing service PicMonkey.com. “They’re trying to do the right thing.”
Apple released data last year that revealed women account for only 30% of its 98,000 employees. Of its engineers, women make up only 20%.
And at its last seven news conferences, nearly every speaker on stage was a white man. Against this backdrop, Monday’s news conference was noticeably different.
Changing the ratio of women and minority groups in the company and across tech could take years, Spo- sato said, but simply having a more inclusive news conference is a way for companies to send an important message about their intent.
“It may feel like a token, superficial change,” Sposato said. “But I’d argue that those token changes are a necessary component of advancing the discussion and modeling the right behavior for the long term.”
Carolyn Leighton, the founder and chairwoman of Women in Technology International, said Apple’s inclusion of Bailey and Prescott also makes excellent business sense because it shows the company is acknowledging women as part of its audience.
“It’s a win all the way around,” Leighton said. “It’s a win for Apple, it’s a win for the women in those roles, and every time a young girl sees a woman in an important role, she sees a possibility of herself in that role. That’s so powerful.”
Sitting in the shadow of social change — however small — Apple’s other announcements seemed par for the course, Sposato said.
The biggest product announcement was the unveiling of Apple Music, the company’s long-anticipated radio and music streaming service.
The app will launch June 30 and cost $9.99 a month after a three-month free membership.
Apple also unveiled a smarter Siri personal assistant. With iOS 9, coming this fall, Siri will be able to search through more apps than ever and offer users information based on what it thinks they might want to know.
That includes automatically adding event invitations to the Calendar app, telling users who might be calling based on an unknown number that matches one in an email, and launching the Music app when someone plugs in headphones in the morning because that has become a routine.
“We think these kind of intelligence features make a huge difference in iOS 9,” Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering, told an audience of media and software developers at the Moscone Center in San Francisco.
Google Now, part of Google’s mobile app, has similar “intelligence.” Without naming Google, Federighi said Apple’s version keeps users anonymous.
Apple might show freeway traffic data based on a user’s location, but it doesn’t associate that location with a person’s Apple ID, for example.
Last week, Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook called out competitors that were “gobbling up” data about people and trying to make money by mining that information, in a clear reference to Google. For its part, Google has been trying to better clarify its privacy policies online.
Apple reiterated its privacy message Monday when it revealed a new app called News, which will include articles from ESPN, Wired and other publications. Information about what someone reads will be kept private and won’t be shared with other companies, Federighi said.
For the first time, iOS 9 will include a Maps app that has public transit directions. It will be limited to select cities in the U.S. and China.
On tablets, iOS 9 introduces multitasking to the iPad Air 2 so that users can interact with multiple apps at once; swiping through emails with one hand and editing a document with the other are among the new features. Or users can watch a basketball game in a mini
window while answering emails in a bigger one.
Most important, Apple plans to reduce the file size of the new operating system so that users won’t be scrambling to delete photos and videos to make room for it.
Apple showed off only minor updates to its operating system for desktops and laptops. The new version of OS X is called El Capitan, replacing OS X Yosemite. Beginning this fall, iMac and MacBook users will be able to upgrade to El Capitan for free.
It brings the ability to search through computer files for more conversational queries, like “Mail I ignored from Phil” and “Documents I worked on last June.”
Apple made a few announcements about the Apple Watch, saying that apps should be getting quicker because they’ll soon be able to run directly off the watch’s internal system instead of the iPhone to which it’s connected.
JENNIFER BAILEY, Apple vice president of Internet services, speaks Monday about Apple Pay during the company’s Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco.