Do you remember where you were when you heard Marissa Mayer was named the CEO of Yahoo?
I do. I was at work. I saw something vague about it on Twitter: I gathered Marissa Mayer was at Yahoo now. I clicked the link. The next few seconds, in my memory, play out like slow motion, like a dream state. I saw the word “CEO”. I read the full sentence. I had to read it two more times before I believed it.
Marissa Mayer is the new CEO of Yahoo.
It occurred to me, several hours later, that this would be a moment I’d remember my whole life. Where I was, how I felt, when I learned Marissa Mayer was the new CEO of Yahoo.
I felt as if the tide had finally shifted.
“I want to work at Yahoo!”
Several hours later, the news emerged that Mayer is pregnant, due in October with a boy. She’d informed Yahoo’s board of her pregnancy in late June, just a week after they’d approached her about the job. They hired her regardless and moved their September board meeting, scheduled to be in New York, to Mayer’s hometown of Sunnyvale.
My next thought caught me by surprise: “I want to work at Yahoo.”
In hiring a 37-year-old pregnant woman as CEO, Yahoo is sending a message loud and clear: We want the best and brightest female minds in tech, and we are committed to making Yahoo a company whose culture attracts you, retains you and promotes you. You could be CEO of this company some day.
Women follow women
We read a lot lately about investors putting pressure on large corporations to place women in their C-suites and on their boards. It’s easy to read that and feel like it’s the next phase of a bra-burning feminist agenda, but a company’s investors want that company to succeed. They have skin in this game, and they’d never ask a company to litter its management with token ineffective women.
They want to see the companies do better. They know including women helps companies do better.
Investors want to get women into upper management, and into all levels of a company, because it makes the company perform better.
And where one brilliant woman finds success and recognition, others will follow.
So perhaps Marissa Mayer (with a hat-tip to Yahoo’s board) has already begun turning the company around. The best female talent in tech and digital – talent that would otherwise go to Google, Facebook or Twitter — will now be taking a much harder look at Yahoo. If Yahoo can leverage Mayer’s new leadership to recruit them, that alone could help right this ship.