Marissa Mayer

“Really in technology, it’s about the people, getting the best people, retaining them, nurturing a creative environment and helping to find a way to innovate.” ~Marissa Mayer

Marissa Mayer

Marissa Mayer is one of just a few female CEOs of a Fortune 500 company.
Image: Brigitte Lacombe via Glamour

One of the most powerful women in the world today, Marissa Mayer is one of the smartest women in the business and tech industry today. Not only is she the youngest CEO of a Fortune 500 company at just 37, she is also one of the less than four percent of female CEOs on the same list. She was also listed on Time’s 2013 list of the 100 most influential people in the world.

Mayer grew up in Wausau, Wisconsin, moving on to attend Stanford for her undergraduate and graduate degrees. She graduated with honors with a B.S. in symbolic systems and an M.S. in computer science, both with a specialization in artificial intelligence. And though she never attended school there, the Illinois Institute of Technology awarded Mayer with an honoris causa doctorate degree for her work in the “search” field.

Mayer was the first female engineer hired by Google, starting there in 1999 as the twentieth employee. Her work was instrumental in developing Google tools like search, images, news, maps, books, product search, toolbar, and Gmail. Thirteen years later, she left her executive position at Google to become President and CEO of the struggling Yahoo!

In her time at Yahoo! Mayer has overseen and implemented some major policy changes, like the ban on telecommuting and working from home. She started as CEO in June 2012 and within nine months stock had already risen about 60%. Yahoo! certainly has a long way to go before it reaches its potential, but Mayer seems to be the right person for the job.

Being a top female executive and new mom, Mayer has received her fair share of criticism. She announced her pregnancy on the same day her appointment as CEO was made public, drawing ire from those who thought a new mom-to-be ought not take on such a high-powered, time-consuming job. Further criticism was sparked when Mayer took just two weeks for maternity leave and later built an on-site nursery attached to her office.

Mayer, though she didn’t ask for it, has become an icon to many women who value both family and high-powered careers. She has allowed herself to have both, which is certainly not true of many women in business. She has reminded women everywhere that there is always a choice, and the decision is up to you. While many women might choose either a career or a family, Mayer wants both. So she’s having her cake and eating it, too.