Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer can’t catch a break. From her ad pitch at Cannes that was dubbed “too sales-y” to her appearance in Vogue that sparked controversy, it seems that Mayer can’t make a move without extreme scrutiny.
It’s not as though she could expect much privacy. We know that Steve Jobs had a reputation for being a bit hot-tempered. The difference though, is that despite Steve Job’s outbursts, we remember him as an innovator and a great leader. Jobs deserves the accolades no doubt, yet he received a fraction of the criticism that Mayer does. Fair enough, Mayer has stirred her own share of controversy. The ban on the remote-working of Yahoo employees while she simultaneously built a nursery in her office is hubris at its finest (though we are holding her in higher account for this offense because she is a woman, if we’re being honest). When Mayer appeared on Vogue, there was a residual outcry questioning the “appropriateness” of a female CEO photographed laying down in the fashion editorial. Yes, Mayer is reclining on a lawn chair, but Vogue knew what they were doing. Capitalizing on the already controversial persona of Mayer, they posed her like they would for any other model. Mayer I’m sure trusted the process and editorial vision of Vogue, though maybe didn’t expect the backlash. And besides, let’s not forget that Steve Jobs appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone, a magazine that boasts an aura of 1970’s edge. When he was 29, he appeared in an interview in Playboy Magazine. He was only in a text interview, sans photos. Still though, it’s hardly Forbes. Jobs was not deemed inappropriate.
Marissa Mayer’s most recent debacle surrounds her tardiness to a meeting with advertising executives. Mayer allegedly overslept, and arrived two hours late. Upon arriving, Mayer apologizes for oversleeping to the high-power executives that had been waiting for her. I understand the gravity of a blunder like this- time is money, and I’m sure the time of the members in the meeting is worth more than I can ever dream of affording. Arriving late to a meeting, let alone one that cannot start without you in attendance, is grossly unprofessional. However, when given the fact that Mayer had just arrived in France for the meeting, and (lest we forget), is an actual human being- it’s not unbelievable. Should Mayer be embarrassed that she made such a faux pas? Yes, and I’m sure she is. What I find absurd, is the way this story has erupted in social media. A twitter account with the handle @tiredmarissa has spawned, memes are circulating, and everyone from The Wall Street Journal to Shape Magazine is talking about it. My question is this- despite the obvious admission that this was a huge mistake, if Marissa weren’t a woman in a nearly All Boys Club, would we care? Would we care that she was in Vogue? Would we criticize her pitch at Cannes of being too sales-y? Isn’t that what pitches are supposed to be, anyways? Don’t you want someone to buy your product, believe in your ideas?
I don’t think that people shouldn’t be held accountable for their actions. I definitely believe CEOs and others in power should be held responsible for their missteps and miscalculations. I appreciate Marissa Mayer, despite her gaffes. She doesn’t hide her femininity, and she doesn’t shy from her power. As a young woman in an ecommerce company, I also aspire to attain professionalism that embraces all aspects of who I am- my passion, my drive, my ideas, and yes- my womanhood. I fear the microscopes and megaphones we use when talking about our female executives. I’d like to see a world that offers a little more room for our women in tech, both in the space they occupy and the understanding we allow them. Like any other human, Steve Jobs wasn’t perfect. He had faults- we all do. But he will be immortalized for what he created to share with the world. I hope Mayer isn’t remembered for missing her alarm clock.