Why Doesn't Marissa Mayer Care About Sexism?

07/17/2012 09:40 am ET

All the news about Google executive Marissa Mayer’s appointment today as CEO of Yahoo will likely celebrate her as part of a microtrend of women moving up in Silicon Valley: Meg Whitman, recently named CEO of Hewlett-Packard, and Virginia Rometty, the head of I.B.M. and Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer and newly named to the company’s board. But the irony of this moment is how little interest Mayer has in talking about women as a specific category in need of any particular help or attention. Mayer generously speaks at events for young women techies or business school students who always eagerly ask her what it was like to be one of the only women computer programmers at Google and she always says some version of: “I’m not a girl at Google. I’m a geek at Google.” In an interview I once asked her why there weren’t more girl geek computer science majors like her but that too is not the kind of question she likes to answer: “I am much less worried about adjusting the percentage than about growing the overall pie,” she told me. “We are not producing enough men or women who know how to program.”

Mayer is tall and blond with Holly Golightly good looks and a great sense of style, and she regularly appears in local society blogs at fancy parties on the arm of her cute entrepreneur husband. “You can be into fashion and be a geek and a good coder,” she says, and then hastens to add, “just like you can be a jock and a good coder. You don’t have to give up what you love.” She has appeared in many a girlish pose in fashion magazines but part of her shudders at being associated with anything too girly. For example, many snap profiles of her are likely to mention that she is obsessed with cupcakes and once made a spreadsheet of the perfect frosting. But in our interview Mayer made a point to tell me that that story wasn’t true; she’d only thought about cupcakes as a possible business venture before they became so trendy.

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