Starting with Marissa Mayer, I’m launching a series dedicated to profiling the style of well-dressed Silicon Valley executives and entrepreneurs. The landscape of the community is evolving. So are the mindsets of its business leaders when it comes to their personal style. Personal style is an extension of their executive presence, personal brands and of the companies they represent.
Marissa Mayer, President and CEO of Yahoo, warrants A Profile In Style because she visually defines Silicon Valley’s possibilities. 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. And they listed her in 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011. The first year she made the list, she also earned the distinction as the youngest woman ever listed. Yahoo! brought her on as president and CEO, and she became a mother, both in 2012.
Controversy always makes someone more puzzling and intriguing. The media has hounded Mayer about her love of cupcakes. Insiders and media critics have even questioned whether she played successful roles she has played in Google’s product development. Others have questioned the amount of publicity she has received. Curiously, this only gives her more free publicity, and adds to her intrigue. Some who follow tech businesses even wonder 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. So, I’m definitely watching, and rooting for her success.
Because many people watch Marissa Mayer, 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. Even more interesting is that she openly embraces her love of fashion.
It’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’m curious about what drives her aesthetic. Known to have an eye for color, she often wears a more stylish item with a less fashionable clothing essential. So, while her use of color unifies a look, an outfit, upon closer inspection shows a save-and-splurge approach.
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 Mayer’s style prowess, now she is a CEO. So, it’s even more important that her appearance is more consistent. She appears to make bold and calculated fashion choices, and it does seem like she has fun with her style. But now as CEO, investors care about the bottom line, and her ability to turn around the Internet giant. Now, her style may 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. We need to see more of this from female corporate leaders who pave the way for more women. 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.