10 women who made Apple great

Just a few of many names

Apple, iOS, OS X, International Womens Day, IT industry
Credit: International Womens Day

It’s International Women’s Day so it seems appropriate to write a few words about some of the many women who have helped Apple put a “ding in the universe” across the years (in no particular order).

Joanna Hoffman

Hoffman joined Apple’s story as the fifth member of the Macintosh team in 1980 and (among other things) wrote the first draft of the User Interface Guidelines for the Mac and figured out how to pitch the computer at the education markets. Hoffman said of her time working with Jobs, “I’ve never been anyone’s work wife. And if I could impart that on to she would be an ally in that,” explaining how she advised on how that role was played. She gained a reputation as someone who stood up to Steve.

Deborah Coleman

The second woman to join the Macintosh team, Coleman was Apple’s finance and operations chief for eleven years. That’s just one of a series of achievements on her part – she has a PhD, is a managing partner at VC firms and has been on the board of numerous technology companies. She has much respect for Hoffman, saying, “Joanna was the one who represented all of us in learning how to stand up to Steve,” she said.

Susan Barnes

Barnes was controller of the Macintosh Division at Apple and a cofounder of NeXT. At one time she was sent to cut a deal with an Apple partner, but the Japanese chairman of the company told her to go out and buy pearls while the men did the business. A terse fax from Steve Jobs appeared, telling the unreconstructed parochial dinosaur “Ms. Barnes makes the decision on this negotiation.”

Susan Kare

Kare designed Apple’s first icons. These approachable, friendly icons included things like the system-failure bomb, paintbrush, mini-stopwatch, and the acclaimed dogcow. The success of these icons arguably helped Apple establish the Mac product, and that’s all the more amazing when you consider Kare “didn't really know anything about digital typography,” when she began. She’s still designing – check out Kare Design Studio, “I really try to develop symbols that are meaningful and memorable,” she said.

Angela Ahrendts

Ahrendts has reportedly generated high levels of loyalty across Apple’s retail teams and the former fashion CEO has reportedly been deeply involved in managing the Apple Watch release. Expect much more, as I don’t think we’ve seen the full Ahrendt’s impact on Apple just yet, though at present she’s the only female face in a sea of ten middle-aged white men on the senior management team.

Katie Cotton

Apple’s former VP Communications, Cotton was an essential aide to Steve Jobs and successfully led Apple’s communication strategy as it exercised one of the biggest turnarounds in US corporate history. Take a look at John Gruber’s account of working with her. She resigned post in 2014, “Katie has given her all to this company for over 18 years,” Apple spokesman Steve Dowling said in a statement at the time. “We are really going to miss her.” Cotton called leaving the company hard because it was “part of her heart”.

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