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Gini Dietrich

Marissa Mayer: Why Are We Still Having this Conversation?

By: Gini Dietrich | July 19, 2012 | 
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I have a question. Why are so many journalists and bloggers writing with advice for Marissa Mayer?

Risking the fact that you might be tired of the “women rule” trip I’m on lately, I really want to know what the heck is going on.

If this were a 37-year-old man whose wife was pregnant, we wouldn’t be talking about this. In fact, it would be a non-story, other than the fifth CEO in five years has joined Yahoo! and Wall Street is paying attention.

They might wonder why he hadn’t attended the earnings call on his first day. That could have been a story. And, certainly, coming from Google is a story.

But it wouldn’t be about his gender, his age, the fact that he and his wife are expecting, or even how he feels about burnout and whether or not it’s naive.

No one would give him advice, as it compares to Carly Fiorina’s “failure” at HP. No one would be talking about the “glass cliff” he’s on (do you know this term? It’s going to make you angry). No one would be giving him advice about taking leave after the baby arrives. And certainly no one would be putting the work/life balance discussion squarely on his shoulders by saying,

Women and girls the world over are looking to you to inspire, set trends in the workplace, and establish what it means to be a young working mom helming a Fortune 500 company.

Is this really 2012? Or have we stepped into a time warp?

Yahoo!, the once Internet darling, isn’t faring so well, and it may take longer than five years to undo what her predecessors have left in their wake. There may be some sour apples that interim CEO, Ross Levinsohn, didn’t get the job. And, according to reports, the culture is in dire need of fixing.

All of these things would be there no matter who took over the helm.

I wish her the best of luck in her new job. I hope she’s not on a glass cliff, but has success at Yahoo!.

That’s the conversation we should be having in a year – what she’s doing to turn around the company; not her age, her new baby, or her gender.

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro.

217 comments
jonnythomas88
jonnythomas88

Please make this game in english, and everithing voice acted. If you wana patch it later in diffrent laguaces dont care but every company today makes her gemes in english seriously now.http://www.biohealthchip.org

FredericaFaison
FredericaFaison

We are having this conversation because she screwed up by leaving Google.  She is catching a falling knife, or jumping on a sinking ship, or whatever other phrase you want to use for Yahoo's demise.  Most women wouldn't have made this jump.  Most women would have stayed put.

 

I'm sure she got paid a lot of money, but Yahoo is beyond repair.  It is a bastion for confused liberals that is about to fall into the trash bin of history.  It had huge advantages in several areas, and gave all of them away.

lauraclick
lauraclick

I really wish I wouldn't have read the Berglas article. It felt so darn condescending. It would be a different thing if that advice column was written by another female executive giving Megan some advice in her new role. And, the "glass cliff" concept is also disturbing - though, it seems sadly true. I guess they must think they can afford a more "risky" hire when they're desperate. Ugh.

 

She's jumping into trouble waters over at Yahoo. That ship isn't going to right itself overnight. I just hope they aren't setting her up to fail. She's inherited a big mess that would be tough for anyone coming into that role. I just hope that if it doesn't go well they don't blame it on the fact that she's a woman or a mom.

jennalanger
jennalanger moderator

I think Yahoo is an obvious next step for Marissa in her career so should could move up in the ranks and show what she can do. I'm not sure, however, that it was the right move for Yahoo. They are a publicly traded company and bringing in somone new to this role (I know she's not new to the industry) can be risky. That being said, the reason this is such a big deal I think has less to do with the fact that she's a woman, but more to do with Yahoo struggling so much lately, having an identity crisis, and not konwing how to move their business forward. I look up to Marissa Mayer as one of my idols in the industry, and I hope she can bring a fresh, productive perspective to Yahoo. I am still skeptical, however, that it will solve their problems.

 

That being said, it has NOTHING to do with the fact that she's a woman. We've seen men fail in this role, it's a tricky one all together.

JennyFloria
JennyFloria

@jeffreypjacobs @ginidietrich Thank you! I don't understand why a pregnant CEO is the front page of biz sections.

katie_mccartney
katie_mccartney

Truly feel this conversation should not be happening at all today.  Women are allowed a choice to do what they want to do with their lives.  This only irks me that this at all a national topic of discussion!  

3HatsComm
3HatsComm

Commented more or less the same on a post on HBR http://bit.ly/OcOUQN This is yet another of the many 'if she were a man, it wouldn't matter' issues. It's her abilities and expertise, her experience and quality of work that are relevant, nothing else. Alas it's fodder for news as media outlets apparently get clicks and eyeballs waxing on about work life balance. And being sexist trolls. What gets me still is the double standard. Debated w/ someone the other day, a woman being hyper critical of a woman on TV (one of those HGTV shows) choosing to be a stay at home mom. I was just.. damn. Everyone has their own ideas of family, marriage, parenthood. We need to stop, just stop with these ridiculous ideas - and pandering judgements - that it's either or, that it's somehow wrong, a failing if life sometimes conflicts with work, that it's 'all' or none. That happens to us all -- men, women, married, single, parent, not. Period. FWIW.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich

@CynthiaSchames LOL! I"ll gladly share it with you!

PRMurewa
PRMurewa

@ginidietrich in light of the disclosure of her overall pay, people do need to shift focus from her sex and pregnancy to something else.

AdamSinger
AdamSinger

@ginidietrich when are we hanging out again for drinks? Another date with you and @conversationage is overdue :)

wabbitoid
wabbitoid

I've been thinking about this a bit, and I'm still pretty pissed off about how sexist most of the coverage of Mayer's appointment has been.  But when I think about how I would write this story on my own terms, I think the pregnancy is pretty important - it would seem odd to NOT mention it, since it is a first.

 

So how would *I* handle this?  First of all, if she were a man I would mention having a young and/or growing family - but only in passing.  And in this case, I think it deserves just a bit more than that.

 

We're dealing with a rather unconventional person here - a real leader in many ways who has taken several unusual paths.  Signing up with google so early on and taking that risk is worth mentioning.  A programmer rising to a management position is important.  The interview with Lady Gaga deserves a mention, just for weirdness.  And the pregnancy can be included in that same paragraph.

 

So I don't think it should be entirely left out - that would stand out as a glaring admission to many people.  But some context for understanding that Mayer is a person who does things her own way would make it a much more rich story.  Throw in how Yahoo! needs some fresh air and you have a pretty good story, I'd say.

 

But I would never offer "advice" or a comparison to Fiorina.  That's just dumb and sexist.

 

(note:  I'm from the East, and we refer to people we don't know by last name.  Women, too.  The only time it gets weird is when you reference "Clinton", so the title "Secretary Clinton" is handy.  Calling Mayer "Marissa" in an article just looks sexist and wrong, IMHO.)

Hajra
Hajra

I agree. We really shouldn't be bothered how many weeks she might take off because of her baby or how she chooses to raise her baby with such a huge job to take care of.... so irrelevant, as long as she gets her work done all right and takes Yahoo to a better place, I wouldn't be bothered if she brings her baby to work.... that would be fun though... Hmmmm...

shonali
shonali

@kreebeau I know! @GiniDietrich

John_Murphy
John_Murphy

 @ginidietrich I think it is really sad that in 2012 this keeps coming up. As someone who spent a long time in corporate life I can tell you that there are many men, and some women!, who think that a woman who pursues a career is an oddity and something to be commented on. These are the same people who start sentences with "I'm not a racist but.....", or "I'm not homophobic but...." These people are to be avoided at all costs, and let's not give them airtime!

PhilanthropyInk
PhilanthropyInk

@ginidietrich Woah. Had not heard the term "glass cliff" before. Ouch.

karlgibson
karlgibson

@ginidietrich Any time a minority (gender/race) lands a prominent gig, the pontification arcs can get greasy & stupid. More power to her!

mediachick76
mediachick76

I'm noticing there are 2 camps of women. The camp that sees this as a non-issue and the camp that is glad this is an issue (because it gives them an opportunity to pursue the discussion of equal treatment from companies despite the "short term disability" of being pregnant). 

 

Personally, having a 10 month old and a career I can say I am very, very tired much of the time right now. And my career won't such up as much time as Marissa's will, so in my eyes, she's a super hero. Somebody give her a cape. I don't know how people (men or women) operate on so little sleep. Maybe that's the story the media should lead with: "Super Hero Runs On 4 Hours of Sleep Per Week And Survives".

Opelova
Opelova

@ginidietrich completely agree with you on that. media in the Czech Republic are even worse saying yahoo must be nuts to hire her :|

mlaffs
mlaffs

@ginidietrich especially since there's a lot of silicon valley burnout over the usual suspects playing musical chairs

mlaffs
mlaffs

@ginidietrich it is news, and for those familiar with her story, this is the interesting bit, i guess?

CloseToHomeMD
CloseToHomeMD

So, is the moral to the story that we work our butts off to break through the "glass ceiling" only to find ourselves on a "glass cliff"? I may just have to go jump off a real cliff. Oh no, that would give "them" too much credibility. Thanks so much for introducing me to a new term I had not heard yet in relation to the multiple ways our society attempts to sabotage the gains women have made over the years.

 

Just one note to contradict the "glass cliff" theory (or does it support it?): a number of years ago I read a paper describing why deans of major medical schools were reluctant to name women as department chairs. I don't have the link readily at hand. But the bottom line was that they were afraid that IF the new chair failed, the Board of Directors would hold the dean more culpable BECAUSE he had hired a woman. Maybe it means that they EXPECTED women to fail more than men. Or maybe it meant that if the male chair failed it was not his fault whereas a woman chair couldn't possibly be expected to deal with all those difficult tasks and making all those difficult decisions necessary to keep a department in the black and optimally functioning.

annedreshfield
annedreshfield

I'm bowing down to you in the Livefyre office, Gini. I was just  reading Berglas' article yesterday and had to stop myself from screaming (and I couldn't even finish the stupid article). It's incredible that this is going on. I hope Mayer has some industrial strength earplugs to tune out all of this, for lack of a better word, crap. /rant 

ExtremelyAvg
ExtremelyAvg

To be honest, I haven't been bothered by any of the stories. In fact, I haven't read a single one. I'm not really sure Yahoo even exists anymore. I remember using it once, at the turn of the century, but since then, I'm pretty sure they've closed their doors.

 

Are you sure this woman is real? I mean, who would leave Google to go take over a company that has been out of business for 10 years? I think it is all pretend.

 

Maybe she could also run Bing and MySpace, since I'm pretty sure they don't exist anymore, either.

 

I think you have all been fooled by some creative, albeit bad, fiction writing.

 

Seriously, Yahoo? The last time anyone used them, they were still putting film in their cameras.

Latest blog post: Random Book Part

rwohlner
rwohlner

Gini good post as always.  As I said on Facebook Ms. Mayer should be judged ONLY on what she can do to position Yahoo for the future and on the impact she has on the price of the stock, mostly the latter.  Her job as CEO of a public company is to deliver value and return to her shareholders, everything else is secondary.  This to me is gender, race, and sexual orientation neutral and would be the same standard I would judge any CEO by.  As the father of two fantastic daughters who will ultimately make an impact in whatever they do I'm rooting for her.

TheJackB
TheJackB

The harshest criticism I have read has all come from other women. I really don't understand why the focus is on her gender and not experience/skills.

Soulati | Hybrid PR
Soulati | Hybrid PR

I kinda said something similar in a recent post about these lists "Top 10 Women To Watch" or whatever that seem to pop up frequently in Ad Age, Fast Company and Inc. While these Fortune women who work at huge organizations with huger budgets to accomplish hugest and noteworthy things globally are laudable; there are so many, many small fry doing many, many, many also laudable things on scale.  And, we're raising our children while doing so. Sigh.

Latest blog post: 20 Things To Do Before I Die

rustyspeidel
rustyspeidel

The Steve Berglas post was annoying, arrogant, and condescending. So was the "glass cliff" BS. That helps!

 

I say ignore those idiots and focus on the fact  that Yahoo! needs to be completely transformed. The era of the late 90s web portal is long over, but they keep hanging on like it's coming back around. I don't care where she works, or how many kids she has, or whether she worked at Google. Does she have the vision to completely re-orient Yahoo! around the mobile, social, cloud-based future of computing? Can she impart it to the current employees and empower them to build it? If so, we have a winner. 

richmeyer
richmeyer

I know and have worked with several people at Yahoo and right now they need a major shot of moral because they feel their company is a rudderless ship in a storm.  Especially troubling is the call to "fire" more people right off the bat but even more troubling to me is that Ms Mayer is a geek and has had "management" issues.

 

According to several Google insiders she has her own publicist and HR people and has an ego the size of the the state of Texas.  This is NOT the type of person that Yahoo needs right now.  A quick glance around the Web indicates that Ms Mayer's publicity firm is in overdrive and when then the person is more important than the job than they are not a good leader.

 

It's not about male vs. female it's about who is the best person to lead this company and Ms Mayer is probably not that person

PhilipNowak
PhilipNowak

Unfortunately, it looks like the business world and media have not evolved their thinking yet with high profile hires who are women. The good and bad part is that all eyes are on Marissa. If she fails to turn Yahoo around within the next 3-5 years, the stereotype of a woman not being able to hold a high-level position while starting a family will continue to persist. If she succeeds, she'll be viewed as the woman who single-handedly pioneered the notion that a woman can be a high-level leader during early motherhood.It doesn't help when you hear mothers being quoted on the TODAY show saying that Marissa is doing a disservice to her future family by not being with her child 24/7. That's a load of BS. Every person is different and runs their schedule to their preference.

JuliPeterson
JuliPeterson

She's pregnant. Not suddenly brain dead or less capable to do her job. Plenty of women have families and jobs.

rachaelseda
rachaelseda

THANK YOU! I was so annoyed when everyone kept having to add in that she's pregnant. SO WHAT. Why does that have to be mentioned?! Why does it matter in regards to her becoming the new Yahoo CEO. Please tell me....I felt like people had to add that in to imply that Yahoo was making a mistake or that she definitely wouldn't be able to handle it. You know what good for Yahoo for just finding the person they thought was smart enough and experienced enough for the position. What makes me more sick is that other women writing posts and articles are making a big deal that she's pregnant too. Really?! I'm so glad you wrote about this because I was just fuming the other day and now I'm all fired up again!!

magriebler
magriebler

On Wednesday, when I feared for my blood pressure and my sanity, I stopped reading all those bat**** crazy articles. (Yours is the exception, @ginidietrich, because you have read my mind and of course I agree with you 1000%.) I wish Marissa Mayer what I wish anyone in this life:  Success as she defines it.

 

Tomorrow, can you write a post about what we can do to combat this offensive nonsense, mentor young people, support each other and dream together about a better world? (Cue sappy music; thank you.)

wabbitoid
wabbitoid

I think you're right on here.  For years, Yahoo! has been were good apps go to die.  Turning around the mess at Yahoo! is one Hell of a story on its own and anyone who isn't writing this that way is one seriously off the mark.  Sexism is all over this story as it's being told and it really does make me sick.

 

IamDez
IamDez

Well damn... apparently I have the wrong thought patterns. My first thought when I heard the news was "She deserves it" and "Finally... somebody that might be able to bring Yahoo back to not-stupid" Guess I should have been thinking "What is her husband going to think"... wouldn't want to stray from `typical` thinking more than I already do.

ladylaff
ladylaff

SING IT SISTER!  I couldn't agree more!

keithprivette
keithprivette

When I saw the email in my inbox. I was hoping to see @ginidietrich as the author! Yes Yes Yes thank you Gini!  I do not recall any of these type questions coming out when Ron Johnson took over JCP? "Hey Ron your the new CEO of JCP and your wife is pregnant are you sure you are up to taking on this challenge" THAT WOULD NOT BE ASKED! Now if he was pregnant...ooops I digress.

 

Now it is ok to ask the tough questions of her. How are you going to stop the talent flood? How are you going to get the company back on track? How are you going to gain marketshare back? What are your long term visions?  These are the questions and posts we should be hearing about!

 

Now don't get me wrong it is fascinating to see what she will do with being the first CEO of a F500 that is pregnant.  It is a whole social dynamic we have not seen before. I do feel there will be way more positive role modeling that will come out of it, than negative.

 

THANKS  for posting!

sydcon_mktg
sydcon_mktg

UGH!!! I didnt know about "glass cliff", and your right, it made me angry!! Seriously is 2012 the year of tearing women down & stripping away their rights??

 

Maybe the talks should be about the CEO's before her who faltered. When will we finally look strictly at qualifications and credentials without seeing the gender or race tied to it?

DonovanGroupInc
DonovanGroupInc

Okay call me simple here but seriously has it been that slow a news cycle that we need to put Marissa Mayer under the microscope to the extent that some have since the announcement?  I believe that one should be given a chance to prove what they can do and let the results speak for themselves.  With that - best of luck Ms. Mayer - win, lose or draw without even having your name on your office door yet the Yahoo brand is back in play.

bradmarley
bradmarley

Let me begin by saying that I think this is a great hire for Yahoo! Not only does she seem like CEO material (from afar) but it puts Yahoo! back in the conversation with Google and Microsoft. And isn't that a tiny part of the reason why they hired her?

 

But we are having this conversation because people are very curious as to how she's going to juggle running a company with having a newborn at home.

 

Then she says this: "My maternity leave will be a few weeks long and I'll work throughout it."

 

Moms everywhere are scoffing at this preposterous idea.

 

Granted, she will most definitely have a nanny (or two) to help her get through the difficult couple of months that follow the arrival of the firstborn. But, no doubt, having a baby is hard. So is running a company.

 

Can she do both? We'll see.

 

But if she fails...oh, man. I don't want to see that conversation.

JoshPGreenberg
JoshPGreenberg

If we were to take even a step further back it's quite telling that the biggest news to come out of Yahoo! in the past few years is mostly related to their CEO turnover. 

 

If this is indeed a "glass cliff" scenario then it would just be another large dent in a ship that's already treading water at best.

 

P.S. She's blonde so at least she'll be fun AMIRITE!?!?!

/kills self

OneJillian
OneJillian

I highly agree. I kept wanting to know what the huge deal was about her taking the CEO position, as surely we have heard of the Wal*Mart/SAMS Club CEO, Rosalind G. Brewer - or the Xerox CEO, Ursula M. Burns.....Not young, spry, soon-to-be-mother-37-year-old women but certainly in our day & age they still represent palm trees in a dessert. (can I copyright a metaphor? that one is SOLID.) And I can only note the interesting bit of the situation for me: what dissatisfaction at Google led her to join the competition? WAY more interesting than "DID YOU KNOW SHE HAS A BABY FACTORY IN HER TUMMY?"

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