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April 3, 2013

Marissa Mayer: The Changing Face of Leadership

Kevin E. Dayhoff

In a recent ‘lean in’ story posted on the new website launched by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, Google employee number 20, Marissa Mayer weighed on how she decided to accept the position of president and CEO of Yahoo!


No meaningful conversation about the constantly changing dynamics of technology is possible without fully exploring the rising influence of women in leadership positions.


The discussion over the role of women in leadership positions has only increased since the July 2012 essay by Princeton professor Anne-Marie Slaughter, "Why Women Still Can't Have It All," was published in The Atlantic and Ms. Sandberg’s recently released book, “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead.” Before she wrote “Forget ‘Having it All,’” Ms. Slaughter, wrote four scholarly tomes on international law and foreign relations.


The Knowledge@Wharton Network observed in a February 13 article, “Forget 'Having It All' -- Own What You Want,” that Ms. Slaughter “touched a nerve across generations and among both men and women, setting off a renewed public debate on women's progress and work-life balance…”


On March 7, in The New York Times, Ms. Slaughter wrote that “a lesson that comes through loud and clear in Sheryl Sandberg’s new book, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead. Her point, in a nutshell, is that notwithstanding the many gender biases that still operate all over the workplace, excuses and justifications won’t get women anywhere. Instead, believe in yourself, give it your all, ‘lean in’ and ‘don’t leave before you leave’…”


Diane Brady recently wrote an article in Bloomberg Business Week, about her February conversation with Ms. Fiorina, in New York, when she spoke at Harvey Nash’s annual leadership conference.


In the article, “Carly Fiorina on Marissa, Sheryl, and Women in Tech,” Ms. Fiorina says: “The fact that we’re so laser-focused on these two women (Ms. Mayer and Ms. Sandberg) says something, doesn’t it? Silicon Valley fixates on people at the top, whoever they are. There’s this culture of the startup story, the iconic founder, so it’s in the water there.


“We’ve made some progress but there’s a long way to go. If Marissa and Sheryl were men who were making these kinds of pronouncements, given the importance of their companies, they would still get a lot of attention...”


Getting back to Ms. Mayer; she gave birth to a son last September. Kara Swisher wrote in the publication, “All Things D,” on March 29: “Sandberg and her team have been encouraging women to post their personal stories of when they leaned into their careers and Mayer certainly does that in her post, including discussing taking the job at the top of the troubled Silicon Valley Internet company when she was seven months pregnant…”


Ms. Mayer wrote in Lean In, “Looking back to reflect on the question: Could I really take the helm of Yahoo when I was 28 weeks pregnant?


“I’ve always believed you can never have everything that you want, but with work and dedication, you can have the things that really matter to you…”


According to Ms. Swisher, “Mayer took off from Yahoo only a few weeks after she had her baby son last fall, and she said it has turned out well for her. ‘I’ve come to realize that being a mother makes me a better executive, because motherhood forces prioritization,’ she wrote. ‘Being a mom gives you so much more clarity on what is important.’”


Anyway, Ms. Mayer believes in the “Vince Lombardi trinity,” according to an article on November 28, 2012 for CNN Money. “In her first public interview since taking on the CEO gig at Yahoo, Marissa Mayer outlined her priorities both inside and out of the company. ‘I think that for me, it's God, family and Yahoo—in that order’…”


Now who can argue over that? Works for me.


. . . . .I’m just saying…


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