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Michelle Obama urges Apple to employ more women

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On Tuesday 6th June Michelle Obama was asked to address Apple’s 2017 Worldwide Developers Conference in San Jose, California, on the role of women in the technology industry.

 

Speaking with Lisa Jackson, Apple’s vice president of environment policy and social initiatives, Obama urged Apple to reconsider the amount of women they employ on the basis of the important insight they could offer.

She prompted employers to ask themselves “Who are you marketing to? Who do you think is going to use these apps? If women aren’t at the table, you’re going to miss my dollar. Because you don’t really know me.”

Such reservations are clearly not entirely unfounded, as with only 32% of Apple’s employees worldwide being female there is a clear argument for Google missing out on a strong female perspective when it comes to creating and developing apps.

However, although employing more women is undeniably important, and one obvious way to create a more diverse workforce in a typically male dominated industry, Obama further argued that focusing purely on workers in their twenties and thirties was too late. 

Instead Obama, who has long been an advocate for advances in women’s education, highlighted the need for substantial changes in the schooling panorama.

She specifically called on college students to be role models for the next generation and to help encourage more women into professions such as those within the tech industry.

Turning to the men in the room she then asked “Are you ready to share your spot at the table? Then make room”.

Despite Obama’s fresh criticism bringing the issue to light again, Apple has already been working to try and address the gender imbalance of their employees.

According to its latest shareholder proxy statement, Google has donated to a range of charitable foundations focusing on wider inclusion in the tech industry including the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing and the National Centre for Women & Information Technology.

However, given the clear minority of women under their employment, it is arguable that these donations simply aren't doing enough.

Furthermore, although Obama’s comments were aimed specifically at Apple's workforce, the implications can quite clearly be applied across the industry as a whole.

Indeed, this situation is by no means limited to Apple, with a recent StackOverflow poll of 64,000 developers finding that a massive 88.6 percent of those surveyed were male.

Likewise, last year a survey conducted by the Financial Times found that Apple actually had employed the most female engineers of the top ten major tech companies, with the national average of women in the workforce standing at a particularly meagre 18.3%.

Despite an overall increase in the number of women in technology across the last decade, the view that the tech industry is inhospitable to women seems to endure and even many of the women within the industry themselves has grown used to being the sole female in the room.

It is these attitudes which Obama is helping to directly combat, urging women to help encourage and inspire other women and even men in the industry help their female peers gain a "spot at the table." 

However, it is clear from the ongoing conversation that the solution is by no means simple and it may still take a number of years to gain gender equality within the tech industry.

With this being said, with inspirational women like Michelle Obama at the helm, we are clearly heading in the right direction. 




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