Inspiring STEM Women: Marissa Mayer

Marissa Mayer is an American information technology executive, originally born in Wisconsin, who is now serving as the president of Yahoo. She is the daughter of an environmental engineer and granddaughter of the Mayor of Jackson, Wisconsin who served for 32 years. Describing herself as ‘painfully shy’ as a child, Mayer immersed herself in extracurricular activities including ballet, dancing, piano lessons and swimming whilst showing a keen interest in mathematical and science disciplines.

Despite growing up with the desires to the become a doctor, a passion for computer technology developed in Mayer and she went on to graduate Stanford University with a Bachelor of Science in Symbolic Systems and a Master’s Degree in Computer Science. Whilst at university, she volunteered at local children’s hospitals and participated in the charitable initiative to bring computer science to Bermuda’s schools. In addition to this, she also interned at SRI International in California and UBS’s research lab based in Switzerland, leading her to gain 14 jobs offers after finishing university.

In 1999, Mayer joined Google as their 20th employee, to lead their user interface and Web server teams, and was the company’s first female engineer. During her time at Google she was involved on working and maintaining some of the company’s most successful components, such as Google Maps, Google Books and Gmail.  Being well known for her attention to detail she eventually became director of consumer web products. She was also part of the three-person team responsible for Google Adwords, an algorithm used by advertisers to determine what products consumers wanted. As a result, it delivered 96% of the company’s revenue in the first quarter of 2011.

Mayer eventually stepped down from Google and in 2012 was made president and CEO of Yahoo. Her vast knowledge and experience made her the best candidate to help Yahoo turn itself around, as it was known for declining stock prices, redundancies and slow ad revenue. She launched an online programme called PB&J, a system collecting employee complaints so that she could actively rectify problems within the company. One of her successful implements was lengthening maternity leave and providing cash bonuses to parents. In reviving Yahoo, Mayer faces the challenges presented by audiences that are moving quickly from desktops to small-screen mobile devices, where marketers struggle to capture attention. In Mayer’s interview with Vogue magazine, she expressed that the company will thrive amid this transition by going back to its roots as the “daily habits” company, providing the best tools for what people do digitally every day.

Not only has Mayer been included in the list of America’s 50 Most Powerful Women in Business by Fortune magazine, with her ranking climbing to 14th in 2012, she has demonstrated interest in charity and sharing her knowledge with younger generations, teaching introductory computer programming at Stanford. Her physical strength and mental strength are highly regarded, as she has had the motivation to complete marathons in San Francisco and Portland and has also climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. 

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Written by: Cassie Walker

Posted on Monday May 15