Curious Capitalist

Why Marissa Mayer Is Feeling Lucky

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Silicon Valley likes leaders with star power, and they don’t come any bigger than Marissa Mayer, the newly anointed head of Yahoo. Her resume is surely the template for a post-modern, information-age celebrity CEO — Stanford artificial intelligence degree, employee No. 20 at Google, developer of the iconic white search page, user experience guru, stunning blond designer-clothes-wearing mother-to-be. Not only is the 37-year-old computer engineer the youngest by far of the 20 women who run Fortune 500 firms, but she’s also the only one to ever become CEO while pregnant.

While the baby is getting much of the media attention, investors could care less. They are focused on the three reasons why Mayer is a smart pick to reinvent one of the Internet’s iconic brands. 1. She’s a user experience fanatic.  2. She’s a technologist who understands media, not a media person trying to get technology. 3. She’s a woman, and technology is feminizing. For more on what all this means, and how it will reshape Silicon Valley, check out my Curious Capitalist column in this week’s TIME magazine.

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If Marissa Mayer were a chubby guy from India (or even a chubby woman from the same), this story would be pretty much confined to the business and technology pages. But this is another example of the media's fascination with attractive WASP females. Please note I don't mean to cast any aspersions on Ms. Mayer's considerable abilities or experience. It's just media treatment I'm talking about here.

William Inglis
William Inglis

Listening to Marissa respond to intelligent questions is a lifting and pleasant experience.  It almost seems unkind to ask her to take on Yahoo but she is one of most impressive people I have watched on interviews.  She may be uniquely suited for the job.


She's incredibly lucky because she is getting paid millions of dollars in a position with zero risk.

    - If she turns Yahoo! around, she's the hero.

    - If it fails, everyone will say that it was a sinking ship and the board is responsible

       and incompetent.

Either way, she will make lots of money with very limitted risk to her prestige/reputation.