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The fidelity to innovation expressed by the late Steve Jobs took many different forms. Most famously, Jobs engendered considerable strides to the world of technology and digital branding.
More discreetly, Jobs privileged methods of interoception over conventional wisdom when making major decisions. But it didn’t just end there.
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Recently, Andy Cunningham, who was Jobs’ former publicist held an event called, “Lessons Learned From The Powerful Women Who Worked With Steve Jobs,” in which several of the female executives that worked with Jobs at Pixar, Apple, and NeXT, explained what it was like to work with the business magnate before he succumbed to pancreatic cancer back in 2011.
The event was moderated by journalist Katie Hafner and held by the Cunningham Collective. Hafner frequently reported on the growth of both Apple and NeXT in their fledgling days back in the early 1980s and 90s.
The unorthodox CEO was said to have adopted a pretty ridged binary standard when evaluating the merits of his colleagues, but it wasn’t the one most often occasioned by many high ranking members of the corporate world. In Jobs mind, there were the “insanely great”, and then there were the “crappy.”
Michelle Quinn, who covered the event, co-signed this by saying, “Jobs didn’t care about the gender of his colleagues, as long as they could get the job done.”
The discussion was peppered with anecdotes exhibiting the iconic innovator’s loyalty to this principle. One instance saw Jobs reprimand the chairman of a company interested in a partnership with Apple with a simple but fierce ultimatum. He did this in a response to Susan Barnes, then the head of the Mac division at Apple who was taking the lead with negotiations, being told by the chairman to go shopping while the men hashed out the details. Barnes recalled Jobs reaching out to the company via fax with a simple stipulation: “Ms. Barns makes the decision on this negotiation.” It was that or no deal.
Collectively, the women said that Jobs often reiterated his belief that an economy that confined women to limited roles effectively handicapped itself. Debi Coleman, who worked as finance and operations chief at Apple for more than 10 years, celebrated how Jobs rejected the antiquated idea of professional women being hired to merely follow instructions. Jobs welcomed the challenge of having to defend his ideas to peers who may have expressed a contrary opinion. It was all for the greater good of his objectives.
“The Steve Jobs that emerged was one appreciated for his fierce passion and drive that meant he judged his colleagues on whether they cared as much as he did about a product’s success,” recalled Barnes.
According to fellow panelist Joanna Hoffman, one of the original members of the Macintosh team, Jobs “surrounded himself with a large portion of women in high ranking positions.”
If nothing else, the success of the projects these women contribute to should stand as a final world against gender-based exclusion in the workplace.
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