Women top the bill at Apple's developer conference in first for company

Apple Key

Forget the streaming music service and the software update.

Forget Drake’s walk-on appearance and The Weeknd’s closing performance. Apple has women! Jennifer Bailey and Susan Prescott presented on stage at the Apple Worldwide Developer Conference conference on Monday – the first time Apple’s own female executives have presented publicly since the event was first held 1976.

It was a major first for a company that has struggled, along with the rest of Silicon Valley, with a lack of diversity among its ranks, especially at the top.

Speaking from the Moscone Centre in San Francisco, Bailey, the vice-president of Apple Pay, updated the audience on the company’s contactless payment system and said it would soon be making its UK debut.

Bailey said “250,000 locations across the United Kingdom are ready to accept Apple Pay”, which is a greater number than the initial roll-out in the US. More than 70% of credit and debit cards would work with Apple Pay, Bailey said.

Merchants signed up include Boots, Marks and Spencer, and Waitrose. In London, commuters will be able to use Apple Pay for tube travel. Passbook is to renamed Wallet, and will allow users to store card information for easier transactions.

Prescott, Apple’s vice-president, also graced the stage to introduced Apple’s news app, in partnership with various media outlets including Conde Nast – which will make 17 titles available to the app. The New York Times will offer 30 free articles per day.

Prescott said: “News [the app’s name] has the latest stories, articles and posts, with over a million topics to choose from. The service would track over 1m topics and allow readers to follow all their favourite news sources as well as using search to discover new sources.”

Denise Young Smith, head of human resources, called for focus on inclusion and diversity – issues that chief executive Tim Cook has stated are among his priorities.

Last year Cook came out as gay and described his sexuality as “among the greatest gifts God has given me”.

According to the company’s 2014 diversity report, 70% of its 98,000 employees were male and 55% were white.

Apple and other technology firms have been criticised for having a predominantly male workforce, a lack of ethnically diverse employees and a low number of women in senior management positions. Angela Ahrendts, senior vice-president of retail and online stores, is the sole woman on its 10-strong executive team.

The balance is typical for technology firms. Facebook reports a 69% male and 57% white workforce, while Twitter has a 70% male and 59% white employee demographic.

Apple’s events typically feature slots from Craig Federighi, head of software engineering; marketing chief Phil Schiller; Eddy Cue, vice-president of internet services; and iOS software supremo Scott Forstall.

The more diverse speaker lineup is part of a concerted effort by Cook, who told technology news site Mashable on Sunday that “you’ll see a change tomorrow” with the speakers, and spent time meeting female student WWDC scholarship winners at Sunday’s orientation session.

Apple also remains a “lifetime” partner for the non-profit organisation National Center for Women & Information, which encourages women to enter into technology positions.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Manjinder Toor and Hannah Jane Parkinson, for theguardian.com on Monday 8th June 2015 21.47 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010