Marisa Mayer: Has She Been a Successful CEO For Yahoo?


So, I’m pursuing the front page news of multiple news sites and a headline on HuffPost’s landing page caught my eye, "Glencore’s Ivan Glasenberg Might Be The Least-Fun CEO Of All Time." Of course, I had to read what this intern-turned-editorial assistant with five years reporting experience knows about business research when he writes his articles. Needless to say, I was very disappointed that he included a far-reaching, and misleading, comparison to Yahoo’s current leader, CEO Marissa Mayer.

The crux of the author’s opinion is that CEO’s are bad, grumpy, workaholics who are out touch with what is really going on with their employees. Based on the original Wall Street Journal article that the author linked to, I’ll agree that Glencore does have a cut-throat environment that is very much dog-eat-dog. Where the author went completely off the rails is trying to establish a link between Glasenberg’s and Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer’s leadership styles. 

It’s no secret that Mayer inherited a disorganized mess stemming from the numerous direction, and leadership, changes that preceded her. Each change contributed to the loss of corporate vision and perceived complacency in the online domain thereby increasing numerous risks that led to the global hacking incidents and the lost customer trust Mayer contends with today

Yet, each move Mayer makes continues to turn the Yahoo ship around.

One paragraph in the author’s opinion piece really caught my attention: “He’s not the only CEO to tighten up on work-life balance while simultaneously letting employees go. Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer faced criticism for forbidding employees to work from home shortly before announcing big cuts to her workforce.” I’ve included the same links the author provided to support his case that Mayer needs to lighten up and is on par with Glasenberg. 

Unfortunately for the author, his second link takes the reader to an article written on April 12, 2012 by AP reporter Michael Liedtke, stating then Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson announced the layoffs of over 2,000 people. Given the fact that Mayer was still a Googler when the AP article was written, I’m having a hard time seeing the connection that Thompson’s layoffs had any impact Mayer’s Google work force.  

The next glaring issue with this paragraph is the timeline is backwards. The first link in the paragraph takes the reader to an article written by HuffPost’s work-life balance opinionator titled, "'Marissa Mayer’s Work From Home Ban' is the exact Opposite of What CEO’s Should Be Doing," dated February 23. The author of the Glencore article clearly states that the work from home ban of February was announced shortly before the big cuts to her (meaning Mayer’s Yahoo) workforce that were announced in 2012 (again, Mayer was a Googler at the time, not a Yahoo). 

I have to ask, does he have a back-to-the-future car? Or, is he confusing the Scott Thompson Yahoo layoffs with the Google Motorola layoffs that started in August of 2012, after Google acquired Motorola Mobility? These layoffs are continuing into 2013. Considering Mayer’s first day at Yahoo was July 17, 2012, that too would be a stretch.

Now that I’ve had my fun with this little diddy, here are some facts:

Glencore Xstrada

Ivan Glasenberg is the CEO of Glencore, a commodities broker/owner that recently sealed a deal to acquire mining company Xstrata PLC, thus forming Glencore Xstrata PLC. Like all take-overs/mergers, redundant job functions will be shed. Being the "winner" of the takeover, Glencore will keep their existing management staff and start laying off employees on all levels from Xstrata so the newly combined company can rapidly synergize their efforts while maintaining Glasenberg’s strategic vision for the company. 

Glencore is highly competitive with the top tier employees making a bundle with an all-work mentality. Those who take a breather are quickly ousted by someone looking to grab onto the next rung of the corporate ladder. Agree or disagree, it’s really a culture of work, work, work. If the employee had problem with it, they would have removed the rungs long ago, including the men.

The net effect of the take-over is Glencore Xstrata PLC now has a larger share of commodities rights worldwide. This gives Glencore greater control and influence over the commodities they’ve invested in, as well as presenting a stronger threat to China’s efforts to corner global commodities markets on a governmental level. 


Meanwhile, Marissa Mayer continues to show solid leadership at Yahoo!. Under her watch, employees who either left, or were laid off under her predecessor's short turn at the helm are starting to return. Mayer has expanded employee maternity leave options, the Yahoo! landing page has improved dramatically, and Yahoo! found a solution to that dreaded question: “How do we strengthen our ad revenues?”  

Additionally, perspective employees are no longer by-passing Yahoo as an employer and existing employee morale is up, not down. It appears that the ban on telecommuting was not as large of a factor in employee satisfaction as the media implied. 

Finally, Yahoo! made Business Insider’s top 10 of the “Best Places To Work” in 2012, and they pay their employees very well with a median salary of $120,000.

What a meanie that Mayer is! (Sarcasm intended.)

This turn-around has not gone unnoticed by the French government. France has blocked the sale of Daily Motion, one of Google-owned YouTube’s main competitors. What’s interesting about this block is Daily Motion is owned by France Telecom, the leading telecommunications provider in France with a governmental stake of 27% ownership.

Since Yahoo’s interest was made public, Daily Motion’s site activity has grown exponentially. France is now looking at this sale as an ongoing revenue stream to help them out of their debt hole. Instead of selling the service outright to Yahoo, France is holding out for a 50/50 ownership of the site.

The net effect of Mayer’s leadership is increased employee satisfaction, increased innovation, increased investor satisfaction, all of which will increase the public trust as Yahoo continues to address each issue it comes.

There is not a magic formula that Mayer is using to accomplish this rapid turn-around. I’ve used the same tools and techniques on projects I’ve worked on as well as building a quality infrastructure for a couple of organizations. In other words, she is using the same proven business methods and quality practices that I learned in college and have applied throughout the years. 

This brings me back to the opinionator who subtlety tried to latch onto a false feminist narrative painting Mayer as the wicked witch of the left who abandoned all "feminist" stances when she made the decision to end telecommuting. Fact is, in less than a year, Mayer has done what most deemed impossible, started to turn the Yahoo! ship around with clear, actionable, and measurable data based decisions. Instead of acknowledging her for her accomplishments, the author tried paint her in a bad light based on another person’s actions in a feeble attempt to tie her to a CEO whom he clearly does not like. 

It’s been reported that Mayer stated in the past that she does not consider herself a feminist. She may not claim that label but she’s proving herself to be one hell of a business woman. In the long run, this is will take equality in the workplace much farther than a singular attack on a ban of remote workers.

This is the problem with drive by articles. They lack research, substance, and fail to see the bigger picture.