Yahoo CEO and motherhood


By Maureen Aylward

Marissa Mayer, who was recently named Yahoo’s CEO, is expecting her first child in October. The appointment has brought up again the issue of motherhood and professional careers. We asked our Zintro experts to lean into the issue and shed some light on it.

Charlotte Tomic, a public relations consultant, says that motherhood and business is a perennial issue because the reality for many women is that unless they want to advance in their career, they must be workaholics who can show they can work the hours necessary to be true leaders in a company. “This is true of lawyers trying to become partners or businesswomen trying to become CEOs. The reality, however, is that many women defer having children to advance their careers and then realize that they waited too long to have children. On the other hand, women who are financially well-off can hire nannies to take care of their babies, a luxury most other women can not afford,” she says. “The separation anxiety experienced by both classes of women from their babies is difficult but necessary if a woman wants to show her willingness to do whatever it takes to become successful.”

Jim Craig, an expert in sustainability strategy, says that Mayer is an ideal choice for the role, being an accomplished software engineer who has held various high level positions at Google. “But, the ‘problem’ with Mayer isn’t that she is a woman, the problem is that Mayer is about to make that wonderful transition from womanhood to motherhood. And that is the issue Mayer is facing,” says Craig. “In an age when there is supposed to be equality in the workplace, when woman can get to the top jobs, were the glass ceiling has at been removed, Mayer faces the seemingly impossible task of being a mother in charge of a multibillion dollar corporation. Why should this be a problem? It would seem that despite there being more women in top jobs there is still a dark, hidden and insidious form of discrimination taking place.”

Craig cites a Stanford study on the impacts of motherhood and careers. Participants received two CVs for a management consultant position, identical in every way, except one listed membership of a Parent Teachers Association (PTA). According to the participants the mother was 79 percent less likely to be hired, 100 percent less likely to be promoted, and be offered a salary $11,000 less.

“To deal with global issues such as climate change, poverty, and ecosystem destruction we need very different, very collaborative, and enlightened thinking. If we use the reaction to the hiring of Marissa Mayer as a barometer of how close we are to this new way of doing business, I think it’s fair to say, we are a long way off,” says Craig.

Brent Norris, a systems thinker and sustainability expert, thinks that Mayer stands out in a room of standouts. “She is vibrant with the ability of a politician to attract your innermost trust. Mayer will drive her Stanford, Walmart, and Google experiences through board meetings and pep rallies. For me, Mayer’s appointment represents a sincere risk on Yahoo’s behalf and one that will be welcomed by everyone, but it will be challenged and securitized greatly by shareholders that have tolerated Yahoo’s recent issues,” he says.

What do you think?

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Shake up at Yahoo

By Maureen Aylward

Yahoo is undergoing yet another transition and transformation. Our Zintro experts weigh in on the company’s stability and its ability to position itself for future growth.

Mary Brophy, an internet marketing expert, says the new CEO, Scott Thompson, should do as Steve Jobs did when resuming control of Apple: fire the board and bring in the best media visionaries and innovators he can acquire. “Thompson can take it still further by eliminating the three remaining and recurring board members: a radio station owner, former airline executive, and Hewlett-Packard executive,” says Brophy.

She thinks Thompson has an unsavory job ahead, specifically his recent announcement of massive layoffs to cut costs with no signs of where revenue growth will come from. “He hired Boston Consulting Group management consultants to advise him on which products are unprofitable and should be abandoned; however, with years of languishing ad sales there is little hope for investors. As BGC Partners analyst Colin Gillis stated in the LA times recently, it’s hard to ‘cut your way to revenue growth.’ Thompson needs to make intelligent and lucky choices for the direction of Yahoo’s research and reformulate its advertising business.”

Mike Russell, an internet marketing expert, thinks that the new restructuring at Yahoo presents a unique opportunity. “I’ve been buying search advertising since it was invented and have seen the expansion and decline of Yahoo during that time,” says Russell. “Over the years, I’ve purchased millions of dollars in ads through all of the search engines for many mid to Fortune 500 companies. I’ve seen it unfold over the years with both Yahoo and Google. Sadly, Yahoo didn’t progress with its offerings or ad tools, leaving the window open for Google to take over search advertising, which they did with a vengeance.”

Russell suggests that Yahoo do the following to stay competitive:

  • Build out easy to use tools for campaign set-up and targeting ads;
  • Make it more cost effective than Google for the advertiser by bringing in advertisers with incentives and lower ad costs; and
  • Promote all of this through third-party tools to expand reach to advertisers and offer incentives to the third parties.

Arthur Kupperman, an expert in web portal development, says that Yahoo indeed needs a major transformation. “The company has an extensive number of consistent users; however, Yahoo has not been innovative and is merely a competitor in a crowded and undistinguished space,” he says. “It needs to break away from the pack of competitors and change its focus, presentation, and concept to conquer new and creative features and content. Yahoo has a strong base, but as it delays it will begin to wither on a progressive scale, which will make it harder to comeback.”

Chip Boykin, an expert in business development and web development, says that Yahoo is probably doing the right thing by trying to innovate and reposition itself. “I think the question is whether they are going it in the right direction. When you compare Yahoo to most companies that attempt to make change within the organization, often it is the marketplace swinging back into its favor,” he says. “I’m impressed that Yahoo is making changes ahead of the curve rather than waiting for the curve to catch up to them.”

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