Female colleagues competed over standing up to Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs, the Apple co-founder, didn’t care about the gender of his colleagues, just as long as they could get the job done.

Those were some of the remembrances by a Who’s Who of Apple female leaders at an event at SAP Labs in Palo Alto Monday night. The event was inspired by the recent release of the screenwriter Aaron Sorkin’s “Steve Jobs.”

He was so focused on his agenda. He didn’t let anything get in the way,” said Andy Cunningham, founder of Cunningham Collective, a marketing innovation consultancy and former publicist for Jobs at Apple, NeXT and Pixar.

The event was the brainchild of Cunningham and Joanna Hoffman, one of the original members of the Macintosh team and NeXT, who is portrayed by the actress Kate Winslet in the film. As they discussed the movie, they marveled how many women worked for Jobs at a high level, she said.

“Joanna was the one who represented all of us in learning how to stand up to Steve,” said Debi Coleman, the finance and operations chief at Macintosh and Apple for over a decade. “That’s one of the reasons she’s a heroine to me.” But standing up to Jobs was something he expected, the women said.

Daniel Kottke, who traveled to India with Jobs and became employee #12 at Apple, joked that he was Andy Hertzfeld‘s date at the event. Hertzfeld, played by Michael Stuhlbarg in the film, popped up from the audience to clarify a point about a product launch.

Also speaking were Susan Barnes, controller of the Macintosh Division at Apple and a cofounder of NeXT and Barbara Koalkin Barza, former product marketing manager for the Macintosh computer and later director of marketing at Pixar.

As Bruce Newman wrote in the Mercury News, there are a lot of mixed feelings in Silicon Valley over the Sorkin take on Jobs. But at this event, the Steve Jobs that emerged was one appreciated for his fierce passion and drive. He judged his colleagues on whether they cared as much as he did about a product’s success.

Barnes recalled how she went to negotiate a deal with an Apple partner, and the chairman of the company said that she was to go pearl shopping while the men talked about the deal. A fax arrived from Jobs: Ms. Barnes makes the decision on this negotiation.

Jobs, the women recalled, spoke in the 1980s about how despite Japan’s economic success, it would be hobbled as an economy in the long term because women were confined to a limited role.

Jobs noted that Coleman was hiring only women in the finance group, and asked, “When are you going to hire men?”  She replied, “When you double my head count.”

Above: Steve Jobs (Tom Munnecke/Getty Images).


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  • SivBum

    PLEASE don’t just report from the cheerleaders! The number of women executives is about handful, almost neglible relative to the hundreds who reported directly to Jobs. More glaring is the board of directors under Jobs. It is not just women but minorities as well:

    Jan 8, 2014 – Apple’s eight-member board currently has one woman, former Avon CEO Andrea Jung, who is also the only director with a minority background

    • appetite

      Get over yourself. Noone should be hired for a job simply to fill a gender or race quota-that is anti-equal opportunity and void of common sense as well.

    • darwiniandude

      “PLEASE don’t just report from the cheerleaders!”


      You’re providing more than ample proof that we need thousands more articles like this one.

      • SivBum

        What’s your point? I believe there are many women and minorities qualified to work in Apple’s managerial rank but Jobs did not think he had the reason to recruit or mentor them. As for qualifications, more than 40% of MIT grads are women for decades. Surely some of them are qualified to work in Apple.

  • websuspect

    Silicon Valley is about %80 men and women represent a smaller piece of the pie when it comes to high spectrum autism its more rare. ( Its probably only in the X chromosome ) OUt of the percentage of men that have aspergers its maybe %1/4 that number in women. So you say your consider moving to silicon valley and you have a social impairment that may interfere with finding a Girlfriend or a wife. Than hiring women at a computer company is a good thing. If there cheerleaders than can only help the moral but it could be women with a degree in Accounting. ( as long as its not my ex girlfriend. ) But If I was working for apple and so and so Gave me my own department i would higher cheerleaders to help keep the guys motivated. People with Aspergers really need that.