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Eve wasn't invited: Integrating women into the Apple community

Brianna Wu | Aug. 8, 2014
iOS developer Brianna Wu looks at the ups and downs of being a female engineer in the Apple community.

When I think about tech companies that respect women, I think about Apple. No one else in the industry seems to include women in its messaging like it does. The company doesn't market its products with testosterone-soaked machismo. It doesn't send embarrassing tweets about booth babes.

No—when you look at an Apple ad, it makes an effort to include women. Apple and its employees talk to us like human beings, and not girls who know nothing about technology. It's important to me, and it's why Apple has my business and (I suspect) the business of countless other women.

But it's very hard for me to reconcile this consumer-facing Apple with the development company that put no women on stage this year for either the 2014 Worldwide Developers Conference keynote or the more-technical State of the Union. It's difficult to connect this Apple I know and trust with the endless sea of white, male faces I saw at Yerba Buena Gardens during this year's WWDC Bash. Women buy Apple products. We develop on Apple hardware. But we're still not yet well-represented in Apple's developer community.

Who does the culture serve?
You can tell the health of a community by looking at its culture. Largely, I'd say that the members of Apple's development community are aware and respectful of women's issues—but when it comes to implementing change, it's still a mixed bag. Chances are, if you're listening to an Apple hobbyist or development podcast, reading a review of a development product, or reading a website about development issues, you are not hearing from women.

An example: One of the most popular podcasts in Apple culture is John Gruber's The Talk Show; its informative and exciting discussions connect listeners to the community and help set its tone.

Week after week, Gruber invites both his friends and Apple developers on for an illuminating discussion. But who are we hearing from? In its latest incarnation, The Talk Show has had just three women on the show as guests out of 99 total panelists. I'm the first to admit that the female portion of our community is small, but we certainly make up more than 2.97 percent. And it's not just limited to audio: the majority of external links on Daring Fireball's website highlight male writers and developers.

Now, I like John Gruber, and I respect his work. It's clear he understands that women in development face serious challenges with our culture, and when he talks about these issues on his show, you can hear the honest concern in his voice. He, like many of us, wants the situation to change.


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