In hiring Marissa Mayer as new CEO, is Yahoo putting her on a 'glass cliff'
Often, struggling companies look for team-builders, collaborators, people who will put their ego aside to move people toward a common goal. According to British academics, that means they are more likely to hire a woman. Is that what Marissa Mayer is walking into?
Marissa Mayer, the 37-year-old former Google executive, is Yahoo’s new CEO.
She'll be the fifth official CEO in five years for the struggling Silicon Valley company. And while Yahoo has had a female CEO before, Carol Bartz, whose termination began the journey to Mayer's appointment, she'll still be a rarity in male-dominated Silicon Valley.
Mayer's first-rate engineering background and strong record at Google more than qualify her for the job. But Yahoo's recent troubles suggest there may be another factor in the mix.
It's been called the "glass cliff": When a company is struggling to keep its head above water, there is a tendency to choose a compassionate, team-playing female CEO to rescue the drowning corporation.
Cindy Gallop, an advertising consultant in New York, says the "glass cliff" was identified by British academics back in 2005. It's a riff off the "glass ceiling," which is often said to hold women back from positions they could otherwise reach, if they were men.
"(The academics) basically saw that where a company is in trouble, there is more of an inclination to value the leadership qualities that, historically, women have been associated with," Mayer said. "Collaboration, the ability to put ego aside to communicate well and to marshall people toward a common goal. The sad thing is, those qualities are seen as less important in good times, when the command-and-control male leadership values come more into play."
Gallop said there's reason to believe this played into Mayer's hiring, but, in practically the same breath, says that the more this happens, it's to the benefit of women in general.
"The more, over time, where women are given the opportunity to do what we all hope, in Marissa's case, will be a very strong job, the whole concept of the glass cliff will go away," Gallop said.
News also broke late Monday that Mayer is pregnant, which Gallop hopes will help break misconceptions that many Americans still hold about women in leadership positions.
"I wish her the very best of luck," Gallop said.
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