TechCrunch Disrupt NYC 2012 - May 23

I’m launching a series of monthly posts dedicated to profiling the style of well-dressed Silicon Valley executives and entrepreneurs.  The landscape of the community is evolving, and so are the mindsets of its business leaders when it comes to their personal style as an extension of their brands and of the companies they represent. Starting with a profile of Marissa Mayer this month, each month a different business leader will be profiled, through November.  Then, in December, I’ll recap the eleven profiles and give you, the reader, an opportunity to vote on who you believe is promoting their best personal style and brand.

Marissa Mayer, President and CEO of Yahoo, deserves A Profile In Style because she visually defines what is possible in Silicon Valley.  A north central Wisconsin native, Mayer has become one of Silicon Valley’s most public female corporate executives.  Okay, so there aren’t so many female tech executives.  And that makes Mayer’s public image that much more important and impressive.

She exemplifies many women’s dreams to have it all.  Just 37 years old, she was Google’s twentieth employee and its first female engineer.  Later, as a company vice president and a public face of Google, she earned a place on Fortune magazine’s annual list of America’s 50 Most Powerful Women in Business in 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011.  The first year when she was listed, she was the youngest woman ever listed.  Yahoo! brought her on as president and CEO, and she became a mother, both in 2012.

Marissa_Mayer_BlueControversy always makes someone more puzzling and intriguing.  The media has hounded Mayer about her love of cupcakes.  Insiders and media critics have questioned what roles she has played in Google’s product development and to what extent she has been successful.  Others have questioned the amount of publicity she has received.  And people who follow tech businesses have even wondered whether she’s all sizzle, but no steak, because of her love of fashion.  All of this attention has got people watching what Marissa Mayer will do next.  I’m definitely watching, and rooting for her success.

That Mayer is being watched by so many people is exactly why her personal style and image are that much more important – to her.  It’s refreshing to see just what a woman at the helm of a Fortune 500 company in Silicon Valley wears and that she likes designer clothes, and even more interesting that she openly embraces her love of fashion.

Marissa_Mayer_McQueenIt’s been well reported on that Mayer plunked down $60,000 at a charity event to have lunch with one of her most favorite fashion designers, Oscar de la Renta.  For his part, de la Renta has been quoted as saying that Mayer is one of his top clients.  I would have loved being a guest at that table because I’m curious about what drives her aesthetic.  She is known to have an eye for color, and tends to wear a more stylish item with a less fashionable clothing essential.

I really like what she told the LA Times about being a woman in a high tech world, “Our country in particular – and the whole world – has a real challenge in bringing more women into engineering and technical fields.  It’s good to show that you don’t need to sacrifice your sense of femininity because you are an engineer.”

For all that I admire about Marissa Mayer’s style prowess, now that she is a CEO, it is even more important that her appearance be that much more consistent.  She does appear to make bold and calculated fashion choices, and it does look like she has fun with her style.  But now that she runs a company, investors care about the bottom line, and her ability to turn around the Internet giant.  Her style may now need to reflect the level of confidence that she would want investors to have in her.  Her style seems to reflect a strong femininity that I don’t think should change.  But too much body consciousness or skin may not be a good fit for a CEO. Style does reveal one’s inner abilities, and from what I see of her style, she’s highly capable.