Apple’s Big Omission: Women on the Board

| Columns and Opinions

Apple's board is missing a key role: women membersApple likes simplicity and uniformity. It makes for beautiful, connected, products that we can all use instinctively. Uniformity is not so good though when it comes to executives and board of directors. I’m not keen on playing diversity bingo, but Apple does not have a single female or ethnic minority executive. At the board level the only female representation comes from Andrea Jung, senior advisor to the board.

Compare Apple’s board diversity to that of their rivals, and they are found seriously wanting. Google has three female members of their ten director board, while Facebook finally added Sheryl Sandberg and, in March, Susan Desmond-Hellman, to their seven member board. At Yahoo! Sue James joins CEO Marissa Mayer on the company’s ten member board. Both Google and Yahoo! also have three women at senior executive levels, with Google having some ethnic minority representation, too.

None of those are great, but they are all better than zero. I have little doubt that Apple could find significant female talent that would be a huge asset to their board and executive teams.

Nevermind the moral case, there is also a strong arguement that diverse leadership teams lead to better business outcomes. Crudely, if you want to stop just "pinking and shrinking" products and actually make something that is appealing to women, it’s probably best to have a few of them at the top making those strategic decisions. I do not know what the gender break down of Apple sales is, but top level female input would definitely not hurt.

The business case for boardroom diversity runs deepers still. In 2009 Katherine Phillips, associate professor of management and organisations at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, told Forbes that just by having a diverse group of people in the room some in the social majority are more prepared to put forward differing opinions. She said:

“When anyone in a group has perspectives, opinions or information that vary from the consensus, our research suggests, the mere presence of social diversity will make them express, and others consider, those perspectives in a way that benefits the group.”

Teams get more varied opinions when the group having the discussion is diverse, yet critical Apple decisions are taken by a male only group.

In September 2011, Deloitte published a paper on workplace diversity called “Only Skin Deep.” It reported:

“Examining Fortune 500 companies, Catalyst found that those with the highest representation of women on their board of directors experienced better financial performance on average (in terms of return on sales, return on invested capital and return on equity) than those with the lowest representation of women.”

That report rightly points out that “diversity means more than just having a sprinkle of women and a dab of colour,” and so companies should be “shifting the question from ‘How can increasing gender and racial diversity help us improve business outcomes?’ to ‘How rich is our knowledge bank?’" What could be more important to an agenda setting tech company like Apple than having a strong, wide ranging knowledge bank?

While female Valley big hitters like Meg Whitman and Marrisa Mayer already have major roles, others could and should join the Apple board, such as Kleiner Perkins partner Marie Meeker, a lady with a strong track record of picking tech trends.

Apple CEO Tim CookLooking beyond the Valley, Apple has former presidential candidate Al Gore on their books, and Hilary Clinton would certainly be a big hitter for the company, especially as she seems to be embracing tech at the moment. If you want to stay away from the politics, Disney Media Networks Anne Sweeny would add some media savvy and tighten the Disney/Pixar/Apple relationship, or the product orientated Mary Barra, a Senior VP at General Motors. Baidu CFO Jennifer Li would also help as Apple seeks to conquer China.

I know that board appointments are a delicate matter, shrouded in secrecy and politics, and that Apple is a very special company. However, I simply do not believe that Apple can't appoint some female talent to the board or executive teams. It puts Apple in an odd position that they praise excellent progress on diversity at a government level, as they recently did with the supreme court rulings on gay marriage, but they can’t get their own house in order.

Modern companies do have to reflect modern society at their very highest levels. Apple, at least for now, does not.

[Some image elements courtesy Shutterstock]

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Comments

John Michael Cary

It’s not just the women, its not just the Board…http://www.apple.com/pr/bios/

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

Totally agree with this… Now that he’s divorced, Al Gore needs more females to awkwardly hit on. You gotta admit, the guy definitely puts the “pig” in ManBearPig.

dtm1

Yup, time for outside political correctness to take over Apple. That will make a difference. Oh wait, Apple has been doing pretty well.

All the outsiders, diversity dopes, who don’t, never have run a business to tell Apple and others how to run their companies.

Tim Cook should tell them all to take their PC butts and jump off a cliff.

Lee Dronick

Is Carly Fiorina available?

ctopher

Lee - I cannot tell if you’re kidding or not. (Given the general view that her time at HP was less than successful, I’ll assume you’re being funny. I laughed!)

I could be called a “diversity dope” as I cannot see the how adding other world views could be bad. On the other hand, diversity for diversity sake doesn’t strike me as a good idea. Apple is doing very well overall and even the author cannot point out where Apple lags among groups other than white males.

It is fair to say that Apple might be improved by adding diversity at the top, but it makes no sense to say that

they can’t get their own house in order

It seems to be in fine shape at the moment.

Lee Dronick

That is Ctopher, she didn’t do well at Hewlett-Packard, nor in politics, but that doesn’t mean that other women wouldn’t do a very good job or that men automatically will.

So who chooses Apple’s directors? Is it “Apple’s” omission that there are no women on the Board or is it the stockholders?

Bob Forsberg

Apple is and has been a predominately an openly gay company. Why would the “boys” want any women around?

Lee Dronick

Is Andrea Jung still Senior Advisor to the Board of Directors?

http://www.businessinsider.com/meet-the-highest-ranking-women-at-apple-2012-6?op=1

Rogifan 1

Apple is an openly gay company?  WTF does that mean?  If its that they support gay rights, well what tech company doesn’t.  And Microsoft has an openly gay/lesbian executive who reports to Ballmer - Lisa Brummel.  I guess I don’t understand what Apple’s support of gay rights has to do with lack of female executives on the leadership team or the BOD.

windwalker

People should be selected by what they have to contribute, not by the colour of their skin or the equipment between their legs.

Competency in their field, compatibility with the company culture and goals, work ethic, communication and collaboration skills are critical to success.
That list is long enough as it is. Adding extra criteria unrelated to the potential for results is a recipe for confusion, resentment and compromises.

Any suboptimal choice driven by silly motives like diversity – especially at the top – can be very costly.

Lee Dronick

Rogifan 1 take a look at the link In my previous comment. There are several woman executives at Apple, also Andrea Jung is an advisor to board of directors.

Hagen

Andrea Jung was “demoted” from a full board member a few months ago after her troubles at Avon. I’m slightly surprised that there’s been no public mention about that.
Also, searches for new Board members typically take a year or more. If Apple is looking for a replacement for Jung, it’s still a bit early. If Apple has been looking beyond (and before) that, then the comments in/about this article apply.

Lee Dronick

Thanks Hagen. Is there any info on why that happened?

mrmwebmax

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Whenever I read articles like this, I always wonder why it is that so much hand-wringing goes on about the “lack of women in tech.” Is it possible that there are just no qualified women interested in being on Apple’s board? That’s a question that articles like this never ask.

Is it quite possible that men are just more interested in tech than women, and that systemic discrimination and cultural norms aren’t the problem? Maybe some fields just appeal more to men than women, just as some fields may appeal more to women than men.

I offer this example of the latter: veterinary medicine, a profession of which I am highly dependent on and forever in need of. And I’m not talking “simple” spay and neuter (as if any surgery is simple), but the need for emergency vets, veterinary oncologists, internal medicine specialists, triage, 24/7 care…me and my cats have been through hell and back. My go-to primary care vet is a woman. My emergency and specialty clinic of choice, AVets in Monroeville, PA, has a large number of highly trained specialists in critical care, emergency, internal medicine, radiology, and surgery. Click on the links for each to see for yourself the number of women versus men:

http://avets.us/Our-Doctors

When I have a cat with cancer, or liver failure, or kidney failure, or God knows what all else we’ve been through, all I care about is competence. At AVets, my cats have been treated 100% of the time by women because they were the ones interested in veterinary medicine, dedicated enough to make it through vet. med school, and talented enough to pull of the miracles they have for my cats. The ratio of women to men isn’t likely to change anytime soon, either, as 80% of those currently in vet med school are women:

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/206562.php

My point is simple: For again, whatever reason, not all fields appeal to women and men in the same way. And again, there just may be no qualified women interested in being on Apple’s board. That doesn’t mean there aren’t women qualified to be on it…maybe those who are just aren’t interested, just as plenty of men qualified enough to be veterinarians just aren’t interested, either.

Lee Dronick

Mrmwebmax maybe there should an article

  Women’s Big Omission, Not Enough Of Them Are Interested In Tech

As far as many people are concerned Apple’s biggest omission is lack of an iPad Mini sized iPhone.

mrmwebmax

+

Lee, of course such an article would never be written. It’s not women’s fault that they aren’t in tech. It’s because girls are taught to play with dolls, or because of too many things targeted at girls and women coming in pink, or the Disney Princesses, or anything and everything under the sun except for the choices that girls and women make for themselves. Because God forbid personal responsibility be taken into account.

daemon

What makes you think liking the color pink or dolls excludes a person from persueing a career in Tech?

Or liking Disney princesses?

Christ that’s just stupid. 

Look, the only reason why there are low numbers of women in Tech is because there are few women interested enough in it to persue it.

How do you raise the number of women in Tech?  The same way you get more of anything, expose children to tech, encourage them to participate,  reward them for doing well,  and in twenty years review the results.

daemon

For instance,  my 20 year-old cousin is looking to enlist,  she was looking at the medical field,  I’m encouraging her to pursue a career as a Nuclear Engineer.

mrmwebmax

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What makes you think liking the color pink or dolls excludes a person from persueing a career in Tech?.... Or liking Disney princesses?.... Christ that’s just stupid.

Agreed, daemon. I don’t believe that at all. But I have seen posts on Facebook, from feminist groups, that make those very arguments all the time. Disney Princesses? They teach girls to be passive and wait for men to solve their problems. Dolls? I recently saw a cartoon posted on Facebook that showed a boy with some toy that could be build in a thousand different ways and hooked to a computer. The next panel showed a girl with a doll, where it was said the only thing the doll could do was be a doll. The last panel showed two (cliched) male geeks at a computer saying, “Why aren’t there more female engineers?”

And I’ve seen numerous posts of so-called feminists proudly whining about how things—especially tech—marketed towards women comes in pink. And that “that’s why I’m a feminist.”

I’ll try to find the cartoon mentioned and post a link.

mrmwebmax

+

BTW, the point of the above post ties right in with this article: The fact that there are neither women on Apple’s board nor that many women in tech has nothing to do with women themselves, the author and feminists say. It’s the fault of Apple for not keeping its house in order. It’s the fault of Disney Princesses and lack of “proper role models” for young girls. It’s because of the color pink. The list is endless.

When I was growing up, I played with G.I Joe dolls (that Hasbro invented to sell dolls to boys, BTW), and worshipped Speed Racer. Yet somehow I never wanted to be a soldier or a race car driver, and went into tech instead. Shocking, I know….

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