Harvey Norman has been selling notebooks, desktops and other technology products since the 1990s. To Chief Executive Katie Page, the endless beige or black boxes seemed to be designed by men for men.
Page, one of the few female corporate leaders in Australia, appreciated the engineering but not the sameness of design. She told one supplier: “This is fantastic, but you’re not showing me something for my female customer.”
That supplier — HP Inc. — listened. The result was Spectre, which InStyle magazine called “the most beautiful laptop we’ve ever seen.” Besides being the thinnest notebook on the market, it features a durable aluminum-and-carbon fiber case, sleek lines and rose-gold accents.
The Garage recently spoke with Page about her strong relationship with HP and the importance of give and take in partnerships.
A physical store is so important — people still want to touch and feel things before they buy.
I was walking through our stores and other retail stores…and just seeing black things. There were lines of them, with different price points, but for a consumer, until you got into the nuts and bolts, they all looked the same. I called it the Stepford Wife-look because it was just aisle after aisle of same-looking things. And there was no passion in the design.
Men generally see their computers as a work thing. Women want them to look good, too. So we weren't delivering for all the customers. We were delivering only for some.
Now, by presenting something different, technology has become a bigger part of customers’ lives. People want to carry it — have you noticed that? I'm just so pumped about it.
We expect a partnership. If it's just “Whatever you've got, what's the price?” there's no relationship. There's no collaboration.
I wasn't having that many conversations with technology companies about design. You know everyone has amazing engineers. When you look at all the things that are happening, it's extraordinary. But if you haven't got design, then you're producing all this fabulous product that looks the same.
The thing that stands out about HP is, No. 1, their commitment to the strategy set by [CEO Dion Weisler]. When Dion started to talk about design, it was music to my ears.
We said there’s value — particularly to the female consumer — in offering something different from the next brand, the next product. Not only did HP want to engage in that, Dion expected it.
We'd been with Hewlett-Packard a long time, so that was important to us, but as a brand, it wasn't going anywhere, in my opinion. It was a good relationship, but it was a run-of-the-mill relationship.
I love the fact that now, everyone on Dion's team is working in the same direction. They believe in the strategy. You often have a CEO and a team working on a strategy, but not all of them really believe in it.
We want to be able to ask questions about what the next five years look like. What is the direction you're taking with your product? And as we design our shops, how do you want your product to look on our floors in the next five years?
What I don't want to see is tick-the-box diversity, where companies say, “But look, we've got women there.” I say, “Are they the right women for what you're trying to achieve?” That's so important — you don't want to throw women under a bus by putting them in a position that's not right for them.
What I love again about HP, and Dion, is that he's thought through all that. He knows he has to have the best women possible for a position, just like he'd choose the best men. And that's what you're seeing at HP — much more thoughtful placement of women.
That’s not the case in Silicon Valley, where the numbers are dreadful. Many companies have such a long way to go. HP is a model for others in Silicon Valley.