More than anything, it is the symbolic aspect of this event that makes the story so compelling. Only 37 years old, Mayer has already proven that she has the credentials for the post. Since joining Google in 1994, she has been an engineer, designer, product manager, and key spokesperson for the company. She held key roles in Google Search, Google Images, Google News, Google Maps, Google Books, Google Product Search, Google Toolbar, iGoogle, and Gmail. She also oversaw the layout of Google’s famous search homepage.
Many industry experts were surprised to hear Yahoo’s choice for the young new leader of the company. To couple the news, hours after Yahoo’s public announcement, Mayer sent out the now-famous tweet that she will soon be expecting a baby boy.
Yahoo’s move makes a bold statement in a season when the debate on female leadership and work-life balance has taken center-stage since the publishing of Anne-Marie Slaughter’s “Why Women Still Can’t Have it All.” A former director of policy planning at the State Department, Slaughter has become a central critic of the inflexible work culture that she claims made juggling high-profile government work along with raising two sons near-impossible, and led her to step down from her government post.
In recent years, Yahoo has been struggling to define itself as a relevant internet directory and search engine. Perhaps then, the company has decided to boldly begin its process of transformation in the spirit of progress. When Mayer revealed her pregnancy to Yahoo’s Board of Directors last month, she claimed that no one raised any concerns, which implies Yahoo’s evolved thinking. She has also stated that she plans to take no more than a couple of weeks off for maternity leave and will work through it from home.
Many women are analyzing Mayer’s decision in light of the struggle for work-life balance. While some criticize her as a poor role-model for working women, many others hail her for embracing two challenges at once. Mayer herself seems to indicate that she simply prefers to stay in the rhythm of things. In any light, Mayer certainly has her work cut out for her in upcoming months.
Between a company that has many problems to fix and a woman who is supremely intelligent and eager to take on the task, one can hope this leadership transition marks the start of a synergetic relationship, as well as a cultural shift for women executives.