Marissa Mayer, born on May 30, 1975, in Wausau, Wisconsin, was appointed CEO of Yahoo in 2012. Prior to joining Yahoo, she spent 13 years at Google, where her work in product development largely contributed to the site's unique look and feel. At the time of Mayer's Yahoo appointment, she was one of only 20 female CEOs in charge of a Fortune 500 company.
Born in Wausau, Wisconsin, on May 30, 1975, Marissa Ann Mayer has described her early years as a small-town childhood, complete with ballet lessons, ice skating, Brownies and debate team competitions. The daughter of an engineer and an art teacher, Mayer demonstrated an early affinity for math and science. While at Wausau West High, she worked at a local grocery store, where she memorized the number codes for produce items in order to streamline the checkout process.
Although she grew up thinking she would be a doctor, while at Stanford University, Mayer developed a passion for computers and went on to earn both a Bachelor of Science in symbolic systems and an Master of Science in computer science, with a specialization in artificial intelligence. But it was perhaps her research internships at SRI International in Menlo Park, California, and the UBS research lab in Zurich that helped her net 14 job offers fresh out of grad school.
Mayer's 14th job offer came from Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, who quizzed her on artificial intelligence while sitting at a ping-pong table that the company used for conferences. In 1999, Google wasn't yet an Internet search giant. In fact, the company had only 19 employees. Upon accepting an offer to lead Google's user interface and Web server teams, Mayer became the company's 20th employee and its first female engineer.
Her tenure at Google involved work on some of the company's most recognizable and successful products, including Google Maps, Google Earth, Street View, Google News and Gmail. Known as a fashionista with an eye for design, Mayer is widely credited for the unique look and feel that has come to characterize the Google experience. For example, she was responsible for approving each "doodle" (the custom logos commemorating holidays and events) appearing on the Google home page.
Mayer spent more than a decade at Google accumulating accolades for her work ethic, eye for detail and vision. In a 2008 interview, however, she seemed to be looking ahead to her next act. "I helped build Google," Mayer said, "but I don't like to rest on [my] laurels. I think the most interesting thing is what happens next."
What happened next for Mayer captured tremendous interest both in Silicon Valley and around the world. In July 2012, she was appointed president and CEO of Yahoo, a company besieged by declining stock prices, layoffs and slowing ad revenue. Tasked with course-correcting the company, Mayer became the fifth CEO hired by Yahoo in five years, as well as one of only 20 women running a Fortune 500 company. As a female technology CEO, Mayer follows in the footsteps of former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina and former eBay CEO Meg Whitman. And many believe that she just may have what it takes to turn Yahoo around.
In September of 2013, Mayer was ranked number one by Fortune magazine in its annual "40 Under 40" list of business leaders. It was also during this month that Mayer posed in the September issue of Vogue magazine. The photo featured Mayer on a chaise lounge in a form-fitting blue dress. The divisive image brought about a debate over whether the seductive pose took away from her authoritative role as a CEO.
Adding even more interest to the appointment, Mayer and her husband, venture capitalist Zachary Bogue, gave birth to their first child—a baby boy named Macallister—on September 30, 2012.
In September 2015, Mayer wrote on her Tumblr blog, that she was pregnant with identical twins and would give birth in December.
“Since my pregnancy has been healthy and uncomplicated and since this is a unique time in Yahoo’s transformation, I plan to approach the pregnancy and delivery as I did with my son three years ago, taking limited time away and working throughout,” Mayer wrote.
Mayer’s plan to take a limited time off after her pregnancy sparked a debate in the press and on social media about the length of maternity leave for working moms. After the birth of her first child in 2012, Mayer took only two weeks off before returning to work. For Yahoo employees, however, she doubled paid maternity leave from eight weeks to 16 weeks in 2013.
“Moving forward, there will be a lot to do for both my family and for Yahoo; both will require hard work and thoughtful prioritization,” Mayer wrote on Tumblr. “However, I’m extremely energized by and dedicated to both my family and Yahoo and will do all that is necessary and more to help both thrive. The future looks extremely bright on both fronts.”
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