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Stuart Gentle Publisher at Onrec

New CEO of Yahoo! – A giant step forward for Women Executives

So Yahoo! appoints a new CEO, a female and she is 6 months pregnant. Many would not batter an eyelid, who cares if it is man or women, and rightly so

So Yahoo! appoints a new CEO, a female and she is 6 months pregnant. Many would not batter an eyelid, who cares if it is man or women, and rightly so. Although this demonstrates how society has progressed in a short span of time, remember only 50 or 60 years ago women were only seen as secretaries and anything more would have raised plenty of eyebrows. Roselyn Donahue, headhunter at leading Executive Search firm Hunter & Chase says, ‘there is still a long way to go as women are not proportionally represented at senior management level in the numbers they should be, however much progress has been made, and the appointment of Marissa Mayer, as CEO of Yahoo! is another step in the right direction.’

What makes the appointment of the former Google Executive even more interesting is the fact that she is just 37, not operated at CEO level and is 6 months pregnant! So how did her name not get thrown around with others, like Hulu CEO Jason Kilar? And why was she chosen as the number one choice? Remember she would have had to disclose she is pregnant and will be going on maternity leave soon. Roselyn of Hunter & Chase gives some perspective, she says ‘within the headhunting community, not too many of us were surprised. The search was led by a well known colleague from another leading search firm, and many viewed the job as interim CEO Ross Levinsohn's to lose, especially since a new CEO would be Yahoo's sixth leader in five years.’ She continues ‘I can almost assure you that there were three to five other 'surprise names' on the list, our source tells us. With these types of searches, she says, you'll look at a number of the obvious companies, like Amazon, AOL, and Google, and then look beyond the founders and talk to five or six executives under them.’

A number of high profile figures from the industry were interviewed by board members of Yahoo!, surprising was how well they did to keep the process confidential, Roselyn is quick to point out ‘at Hunter & Chase whether we are placing a senior executive or mid level manager discretion is of paramount importance, as there may be an incumbent in place, teams of direct reports, media scrutiny, share price sensitivity and so on, this usually means a lot of hard work to keep things quiet’ indeed it must have been even more difficult for such a high profile placement, particularly after the controversy and subsequent media attention of Scott Thompson (the previous CEO who was ousted following revelations the academic background on his CV was inaccurate).

Marissa was always on the shortlist adds Roselyn ‘however what set Marissa part was her outstanding record at Google, she was a pioneering figure responsible for key elements of the Google success story, as employee number 20 and first female engineer. Marissa is a brand, a known entity, who brings a lot to the table at Yahoo!’ Whether or not she can bring in top talent from Google right away remains to be seen, according Roslyn that depends upon whether or not she has a non-solicitation agreement, however one thing Roselyn is certain about is that ‘Marissa Mayer is a huge talent her being female or pregnant was irrelevant to the process and selection - a giant leap forward for women executives.’   

Roselyn Donahue is a headhunter for Hunter & Chase Executive Search, an international Search and Selection firm for middle to senior level appointments.