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Marissa Mayer Finds Her Place

By Anne Kingston via Maclean’s Magazine
Thursday, December 6, 2012


When Yahoo! Inc. named Marissa Mayer as president and CEO in July 2012, it was a very big deal, corporately speaking. Yahoo! poaching the 37-year-old Google executive from its archrival was a major coup; in a press release, the company crowed that Mayer had helped launch “more than 100 features and products including image, book, and product search; toolbar; iGoogle; Google News; and Gmail—creating much of the look and feel of the Google user experience.” Possessed of a smart and sunny demeanour, Mayer was once a visible public face of the search-engine behemoth, famously interviewing Lady Gaga for a “Google goes Gaga” YouTube video in 2011. Much was riding on her ability to turn around the foundering $5-billion tech giant. News of her appointment, which makes her the youngest Fortune 500 company CEO, boded well: Yahoo! stock price rose 2.7 per cent.

Yet what occupied headlines was not Mayer’s stellar professional accomplishments, but her gynecological ones. When she was appointed, the CEO was six months pregnant with her first child (with husband Zack Bogue, a lawyer). When she returned to the executive suite weeks after delivering son Macallister, an inevitable firestorm of debate ensued—one that highlighted the double standard that still applies to mothers, but not fathers, in the top echelons of business.

“Is it fair to make Marissa Mayer a role model for working mothers?” asked the Washington PostA blogger weighed in: “Can Marissa Mayer avoid the motherhood penalty?”, referring to systemic bias against mothers in the workplace. The only clear answer was that even a privileged woman like Mayer was in a no-win situation: if a short maternity leave made her a neglectful mother, a long one would have made her a neglectful CEO. Again came reminders that high-profile mothers holding top jobs, Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg among them, are the exception: only 19 Fortune 500 companies are run by women; slightly more than half have children. Further inflaming the discussion was Anne-Marie Slaughter’s controversial cover story in the June Atlantic: “Why women still can’t have it all,” which said the deck was stacked. Read full article>>