Mayer Spurs Media Mania as New Yahoo! CEO

By Juliana Kenny July 18, 2012

With the appointment of Marissa Mayer to the role of CEO for Yahoo! the world has turned optimistic eyes towards the future for the search engine giant that recently fell to a sluggish second in the opinions of those in the search industry (and user opinion). But along with marveling at the 37-year-old’s accomplishments thus far, the industry has also arrived at the analysis of her body: Marissa Mayer is pregnant.

Since that second piece of news was announced yesterday through her Twitter account, Mayer’s listings in the press quickly transformed from ones surrounding her new position to ones announcing her pregnancy, and the potential toll that experience would take on her role as CEO, as if ‘that experience’ were something Mayer had not already considered with whole heart. While Mayer’s pregnancy would most likely have been notable news regardless of whether or not she had just quit Google, the camps babbling about its coincidental announcement with her move to Yahoo! have taken the news wires by storm.

Reports note that Yahoo’s board considered Mayer’s pregnancy to be neither here nor there in terms of how she would run the company, yet as they are wont to do, news pundits weighed in with thoughts on how Mayer’s pregnancy will affect her ability to do her new job. Media sources abound with doubt and speculation from one side and defense from the other. The two arguments boil down to “It doesn’t matter if she’s pregnant” versus “How can she expect to have a baby and run Yahoo! at the same time?”

This frenzy of commentary on Mayer’s physical state and choice to have a child is no stranger to the world of media, yet it’s mostly seen focused on Hollywood or the political sphere. Media outlets devoted massive amounts of time to the discussion of how long Michele Bachmann’s nails were during her run for the presidential candidacy for the Republican Party. Hilary Clinton’s penchant for pantsuits has been the subject of as many conversations as her international policies have been.

Nor is this entirely a gendered issue. The Huffington Post recently published an article on the role of hair for political figures, focusing on both of the Obamas, while New Jersey’s Governor Christie received harsh criticism for his obesity while in the height of the political eye last year.

While this alarming trend of brushing aside a powerful figure’s accomplishments and beliefs in favor of his or her outward appearance is not uncommon in media coverage, this is the first time it will hit the technology sector with such force. Mayer is young for a CEO, and already popular with industry onlookers for her massive success with Google. Will she be forced to reckon with constant evaluation of her body? Her hormonal balances? The food she eats? The amount of time she takes for maternity leave? Pit these concerns up against the rise or fall of Yahoo! which will directly be associated with her performance, and you have a stressful few months ahead.

Not to mention the comparison of Mayer to every other female CEO in the technology world (luckily there are only a few). Ginni Rometty for IBM, Meg Whitman for HP, and Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook have all been called to enter the proverbial ring as the public wrestles with the notion of a six-month pregnant, newly-appointed, female CEO taking charge of a company that has failed to gain favor since Google has been the heavyweight.

While we indulge our fascination with the physical conditions of both male and female figures in positions of power or political influence ad nauseum, the female figure irrefutably receives the bulk of the negative attention. To be a woman in the technology sphere is one thing, to be a powerful one, is another. And to be pregnant while occupying both may or may not to be a different ball game, but we’ll leave that up to Mayer since she’s clearly got things under control. She was quoted in The New York Times when she was 33 as stating, “I refuse to be stereotyped. I think it’s very comforting for people to put me in a box. ‘Oh, she’s a fluffy girlie girl who likes clothes and cupcakes. Oh, but wait, she is spending her weekends doing hardware electronics.’ ”

No doubt, Mayer will bring her gumption to Yahoo! Perhaps she will also have a hand in reversing, not just the downward slide of the company, but the sickening cultural trend of devoting relentless attention to the corporeal states of those business leaders who drive us through this modern age of communication and technology.

Edited by Amanda Ciccatelli

TechZone360 Managing Editor

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