Apple puts the spotlight on women at WWDC

The gender lines are blurring, and Apple has set the stage for the female of the species to play a bigger role in tech, muses Elissa Loi

Hi, my name is Elissa and I am a female tech journalist.

We are a rare breed, but we exist. If you bother reading the bylines of the tech stories you devour, you’ll realise there’s quite a number of us. We exist behind the scenes, just like the other women in tech.

There you are!

It hit home when someone casually remarked that there won’t be a queue at the ladies toilet at WWDC. But ironically the event was where it came full circle.

It used to be that the only time you see the spotlight being shone on women in tech would be when they’re the ones cavorting on the covers of magazines, or standing around as booth babes at a tech trade show.

But times are changing, if Apple’s WWDC keynote was any indication. It was the first time in a long while that Apple put two relatively unknown (in the public sphere at least) female Apple employees onstage for a keynote alongside their better-known male counterparts like Tim Cook and Craig Federighi.

Jennifer Bailey, Vice President of Internet Services, and Susan Prescott, Vice President of Product Marketing, held their own onstage talking about Apple Pay and News respectively. Both women are not new to the business; Bailey has been with Apple for 10 years while Prescott has been doing her thing at Cupertino since 2003. And that’s not all. Tim Cook made sure to point out that their youngest scholarship winner is a 12-year-old female. Emphasis on 'female'.

One small step for Apple…

...One giant leap for womankind. Yes, it sure isn’t the first time that women are taking to the stage for tech (even for Apple). Google I/O - that took place just some ten days before WWDC - had three female executives onstage for a good part of the keynote. And they’ve been featuring women since 2013. Also, Google is reporting a growing number of female attendees at I/O thanks in part to the big G’s ticket subsidies for female developers.

But why is it that everyone makes such a big fuss when Apple puts women on stage? Simply because it’s Apple.

You can’t possibly miss the irony that it’s taken Apple shifting the spotlight onto women to then highlight the fact that Google has been doing this for a while and on a much bigger, more helpful scale. When Apple does things (good or bad), people just take note. They didn’t make the first smartphone, but they made it mainstream. The tablet failed to catch on with the masses until the iPad was born in 2010. And hopefully, with Apple casting the spotlight onto women, other companies will start doing the same, too.

Image: Quartz

Asian male invasion

It’s great that the sands of Silicon Valley are shifting, but it’d be even better if the rest of the world followed. HTC might have Cher Wang at its bow, but other Asian companies like Samsung, LG, and Xiaomi are very much ruled by male public figures.

Having said that, it doesn’t mean that females should be elevated or given preferential treatment. Don’t hire a woman to make your company look progressive, that's just counter-productive.

It’s absolutely unnecessary to do us any favours, we neither want nor need them. We just want the same opportunities. We don’t want the fact that we’re female to get in the way of our career progression, neither do we want it to help us climb the ladder, we will leave that responsibility to our capabilities. And you should, too. Just maybe, learn to recognise.