Apple management: Where are the female leaders at the iPhone company?

Apple [AAPL] promoted two new faces to its executive team yesterday, raising the team to twelve, but one thing rings false: there isn’t a single female face among the company’s senior vice presidents. Is the world’s most valuable company really a men-only club?

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iEmancipation

That’s not to say congratulations aren’t due to the new senior vice presidents, Craig Federighi (Mac Software Engineering) and Dan Riccio (Hardware Engineering). Both men have put years into the company and it seems right they get some recognition for their labor. 

The company’s employment page reveals it has 47,000 direct hires in the US with an additional 23,000 Apple employees worldwide. It’s reasonable to hope that around half of these jobs are filled by female employees. The US population of 314,242,000 people includes 155.6 million females. This makes it strange that there’s only one top level female executive on Apple’s most senior teams, board member, Avon’s Andrea Jung.

That’s somewhat unrepresentative.

A 2011 report from Judy Standifer (as noted here) questioned the composition of the company’s senior teams. The author noted that lack of female talent on the board: “Is not a question of sexism or gender discrimination.” 

As Business Insider remarks, it isn’t as if there are no powerful women inside Apple: Katie Cotton, Rita Lane, Jennifer Bailey, Isabel Ge Mahe, Betsy Rafael and Kim Vorrath are all named. Their roles include corporate control, financial management and iOS development -- a fairly wide spread of skills which should help prove there’s few limits to what women can achieve within any industry. 

That’s not to say that the make-up of Apple’s executive team should necessarily be dictated by a quota system designed to support sexual and ethnic diversity. The image I like to carry of the company is that it’s some form of meritocracy. That the people at the most senior positions are the people capable of the best performance. 

Diversification

Perhaps the representation of women at the top of other technology firms might provide a little more insight into the sector:

Microsoft: Microsoft has two women (Dina Dublon and Maria Klawe) on the board of directors and one female senior leader, Chief People Officer, Lisa Brummel.

Facebook: This company also appears to be led by an all-male team, according to the Inside Facebook site.

Google: Rachel Whetstone, Shona Brown and Susan Wojcicki sit among the 15-strong senior leadership team, while Diane Greene, Ann Mather and Shirely Tilghman sit on the ten-person board.

Yahoo: CEO Marissa Mayer leads a 13-strong executive team which also features Mickie Roesen, Mollie Spilman and Rose Tsou. 

HP: Led by Meg Whitman, HP’s senior females also include Tracy Keogh and Cathie Lesjak among the executives alongside Ann Livermore and Patricia Russo on the board.

Dell: Dell’s female leaders include Karen Quintos on the executive team and Laura Conigliaro and Janet Clark on the board.

16.1 percent female

Apple isn't alone in being led by an all-male team, but other big tech firms seem a little more representative. The position of women across America’s Fortune 500 isn’t too much better, with women sharing just 16.1 percent of senior leadership roles in 2011, according to Catalyst.org. That’s an unusual statistic when you consider women account for 46.6 percent of the US labor force, and that women accounted for 36.8 percent of MBAs earned between 2010-2011.

Is there a need for more women to occupy executive roles? Demographically it would better reflect the composition of the workforce, but it's not just about representation -- it's also about revenue. Pax World Management CEO/President, Joe Keefe, believes this lack of representation is hampering profitability and that investment advisors should try to address the lack.

Speaking at the Women Advisors Forum conference in New York in April, he said: “When women are at the table, the discussion is richer, the decision making process is better, management is more innovative and collaborative and the organization is stronger,” Keefe said. “It’s not just me saying this, it’s research saying this.”

There's a business case

He referred to a previous Catalyst study which found that firms with three or more women on their boards: “Outperformed companies with no women on their boards by 84 percent when it came to return on sales; 60 percent for return on invested capital; and 46 percent for return on equity.”

Catalyst is campaigning to increase the representation of women on company boards, with a particular focus on its home turf in Canada. “Given the strong business case supporting gender diversity on corporate boards and the global trend to advance women to corporate boardrooms, we are confident that Canadian companies will harness the power of talented women leaders and seize this opportunity to lead and win,” said the company’s senior VP, Deborah Gills.

Yet, as the quick straw poll of female representation on the world’s top technology boards serves to illustrate, there’s some way to go until this industry can be defined as clearly representative. Is it time Apple applied some innovation designed to increase gender diversity?

What do you think? Let me know in comments below.

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Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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