Whether Mayer chooses to comment or not, her very presence at the top of the tech-geek food chain, makes her a role model for young women everywhere
The spotlight hasn’t moved from Marissa Mayer since she took over as CEO and President of Yahoo Inc in July this year. The youngest Fortune 500 CEO at present, Mayer has been ranked 21 in Forbes’s list of 100 Most Powerful Women in the World. No stranger to attention, Mayer is that rare bird of paradise: a brilliant, ambitious computer geek who is unapologetically girly with her reported love of cupcakes, shoes and Oscar de la Renta haute couture. The twentieth employee at Google and the person who helmed their Search and User Experience division, Mayer has been one of the most powerful women in technology for a very long time. But you would be hard-pressed to find a report of Mayer expressing her opinion in the age old ‘can women have it all’ debate. Unlike Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg who is a powerful voice of advice for women in the workplace, Mayer has ducked every chance to make a point or take a stand on the gender question. Controversially Mayer announced she was pregnant the day her appointment at Yahoo was announced. She has since been under tremendous scrutiny for her choice to work till the very last days of her pregnancy and then through her few weeks of maternity leave. Her choices have been discussed ad nauseam, applauded and condemned in equal measure despite her silence and refusal to engage in the debate. But whether Mayer chooses to comment or not, her very presence at the top of the tech-geek food chain, with a baby in tow, makes her a role model for young women everywhere. So is she a hero for women in the workplace or a villain for working moms?
Mayer’s Wonder Woman of the Workplace street cred:
1) She’s a Bachelor of Science in Symbolic Systems and a M.S in Computer Science from Stanford University, both of which she graduated with honors, smashing the ‘Girls Can’t Do Science’ stereotype before becoming one of the most respected and powerful executives in Silicon Valley which is notoriously male dominated. She’s a role model for geeky girls in school.
2) She is reported to have pulled 250 all nighters in her first five years at Google and is believed to have worked 130 of the available 168 hours a week in the early days of Google
3) Her personal net-worth is over 300 million USD built over the 15 years she worked at Google.
4) At 37, Mayer is the youngest of the women CEOS who head Fortune 500 companies, a club that comprises just 20 women. This is an achievement that testifies to immense grit, intelligence and the faith the market places in her.
Why she could also be a Villain for Working Moms:
1) Mayer worked till the very last days of her pregnancy and cut short her maternity leave to work. This ignited fears that her example could set a precedent against which other less-privileged normal women would be judged.
2) Average working women do not have the personal resources or the clout to facilitate work situations that allow them to work around personal commitments. Working 130 hours out of 168 hours in a week is not an option for them. Is it realistic or fair to expect such working hours?
3) She believes that people can work arbitrarily hard for an arbitrary period of time and quotes Churchill and Einstein, not factoring in the constraints that average working mothers work under.
4) She believes gender is irrelevant in the workplace if you work the hours and are good. Mayer was lucky to work in Google which is a well-known meritocracy. However, entrenched gender discrimination is a reality in most workplaces and is not irrelevant.