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What’s Gender Got to Do With It?

by Becky Shambaugh

The recent announcement of Marissa Mayer as the new CEO of Yahoo made media headlines around the world. In fact, I received an unprecedented number of calls about her from reporters and radio talk-show producers – all asking me the same question – did I think Marissa could juggle being a CEO and new mother at the same time.  Could she really “have it all?”  My reaction was and still is…why not?

First of all, she is exactly what Yahoo was looking for. Fred Amoroso, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Yahoo stated, “The Board of Directors unanimously agreed that Marissa’s unparalleled track record in technology, design, and product execution makes her the right leader for Yahoo at this time of enormous opportunity,”  And, as far as I know, being a mother doesn’t make a person less innovative, or less consumer savvy or less technologically gifted!

Secondly, Marissa is a very resourceful individual who, like other successful executives, realizes that no one at the top accomplishes success alone. For years, men have had a support system – both at home and at work – and successful executive women can too. Male or female, the higher you climb on the corporate ladder, the more important it is to realize that you can have it all but you can’t have it all by doing it all by yourself! I imagine Marissa is well aware of this.

I think a better way to frame the question regarding Marissa’s future success is less about her pregnancy and more about her ability to create a compelling vision for Yahoo, build a strong and creative leadership team, and create an engaging organizational culture where Yahoo’s top talent will want to work.  Not to mention that Yahoo is looking to regain their competitive advantage with an increasingly female consumer buying base and was smart in choosing a woman to lead this transformation! Maybe it’s as simple as it takes one to know one! Whatever it is, she has the knowledge, experience, insights and track-record to be successful.  It seems to me that’s the real answer to most all the questions being asked about her.

And I think her selection is setting the stage for more to come in corporate America.  Although women are currently under represented in Executive suites, we all know that the world is a very different place than it was just ten short years ago. You simply can’t run a successful company in today’s complex global marketplace with only men at the top. It takes a balance of men and women in executive positions – leveraging their unique strengths – to both grow, as well as turn around, companies in this stagnant economy.

Yahoo gives us hope that organizations are finally going to break down the glass ceiling for women and select the person best equipped to get the job done. And, trust me, women who aspire to lead organizations will figure out how to juggle children and work – like they’ve been doing for decades! Hats off to Marissa for stepping into the CEO role at Yahoo. Like many, I wish her much success as she will be the torch for so many to follow!

Rebecca Shambaugh, author of It’s Not a Glass Ceiling, It’s a Sticky Floor, is the President and CEO of SHAMBAUGH. For more from Rebecca visit www.shambaughleadership.com.

SHAMBAUGH's leadership and organizational development, employee engagement, and coaching services in addition to SHAMBAUGH's Programs for Women and their Women In Leadership and Learning (WILL) Program (view video highlights of SHAMBAUGH's WILL Program) have been successfully impacting the careers of women leaders for more than 17 years.

July 24, 2012 | Leave a Comment

2 comment(s)

.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 07/24  at  03:52 PM:

I think it’s interesting that when a man is selected as CEO of a large company, no one questions his ability to be a good father.  However, the selection of Marissa Mayer as Yahoo’s CEO has generated a heated debate over whether women can achieve the pinnacle of professional success and also be good mothers. I think this debate continues because Americans still think women have to pick between professional success and motherhood.  As Ann Crittendon points out in her book, The Price of Motherhood, to a large extent, societal structures still do force many of us to choose.  Clearly, though, Marissa has found an equation that works for her and allows her to not have to pick. I hope she passes along her equation for success since I—along with many other women I know—still have yet to find my own.

.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 07/24  at  08:36 PM:

I find it interesting that people are still asking the question - she makes enough money and is worth more than any of us can ever imagine.  It is easy for these women in the upper echelon of income brackets to not have to worry so much about “how to have it all”  It is those women who are working middle management that requires maga hours without the mega dollars that can’t have it all; especially those who are single or can’t rely on their partner to shoulder the extra burden of child care, home management etc.  Trust me ladies - there are always compromises and choices that have to be made!  Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.  Been there and still struggling with those hard choices!  See the Atlantic article.

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