As Marissa Mayer stood with David Karp to announce Yahoo's acquisition of Tumblr on Monday, you couldn't help but notice the vast educational divide between the two principals.
Karp dropped out of Bronx High School of Science and went on to create a blogging platform worth $1.1 billion.
Mayer graduated with honors from Stanford, earning a B.S. in Symbolic Systems and a Master's in Computer Science--then went to Google (GOOG) as its first female engineer and on to Yahoo (YHOO) to become, at 37, the youngest CEO in the Fortune 500. (Until Facebook (FB) Mark Zuckerberg nabbed that distinction.)
Mayer's traditional tech cred clearly helped propel her to corporate America's highest level. What's surprising, given the well-known dearth of women earning tech degrees, is that Mayer's female compatriots who lead Fortune 500 companies also tend to have earned diplomas in science or math or some other technical area. More than half of the 20 female Fortune 500 CEOs graduated with so-called STEM degrees--in science, tech, engineering or mathematics.
Granted, it's no surprise that IBM (IBM) chief Ginni Rometty graduated with high honors in computer science and electrical engineering from Northwestern. Or that Xerox (XRX) CEO Ursula Burns and DuPont (DD) chief Ellen Kullman studied mechanical engineering in college. Burns, who went on to get a Master's in mechanical engineering at Columbia, rose from summer intern at Xerox to lead the company.
But who would have expected these women chiefs to have STEM backgrounds?...
PepsiCo's (PEP) Indra Nooyi studied chemistry, physics, and math at Madras Christian College in India before getting her graduate degree at Indian Institute of Management.
Avon's (AVP) Sheri McCoy has a B.S. in textile chemistry from the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, plus a Master's in chemical engineering from Princeton and an MBA from Rutgers.
Irene Rosenfeld, who leads Mondelez (MDLZ)--split off from Kraft Foods--has a Ph.D. in Marketing and Statistics, plus an MBA and B.A. in Psychology, from Cornell.
Ingredion (INGR) CEO Ilene Gordon has a theory. She believes that women, more than men, need an analytical education to succeed in business. A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of MIT, with a B.S. in mathematics and an MBA, Gordon began her career as a math teacher and moved to Boston Consulting Group, where she noticed that women without analytical chops "often get snowed early in their careers."
"Women don't have the confidence" or the clout, Gordon says, to put forth ideas with the finesse that men tend to have. She has five women, including her CFO, on her 13-member executive team at Ingredion, a $6.5 billion ingredient company. Speaking as a boss who is lonely at the top, at least by gender standards, Gordon adds, "An analytical degree puts you on par or ahead of the men."
My dad died last week, and I was lucky enough to spend most of his last month with him in Pennsylvania. A great time, a great life, no regrets. Hours before he died, I got an email from Coca-Cola CEO Muhtar Kent, wishing my dad well and commenting on my Coke story in the current Fortune 500 issue. My dad never got the chance to see the story, but I MOREPatricia Sellers - May 17, 2012 10:50 AM ET
In four years as CEO of the Coca-Cola Co., he has cranked up profits and trumped Pepsi in the beverage wars. Now Kent is shaking up Coke's culture and remaking the company in his own image.
FORTUNE -- Muhtar Kent, the son of a Turkish diplomat, grew up in Thailand, India, and Iran, and he runs a company that operates in more than 200 countries. So it is rare for him MOREPatricia Sellers - May 10, 2012 5:00 AM ET
With Meg Whitman nabbing the CEO job at Hewlett-Packard--and the four women at the bottom of this list (below) new to the top job this year--America now has 15 female Fortune 500 CEOs.
Not a number to be proud of, but hey, it's a record and it is progress nonetheless.
Here are the women at the helm--including the rank of their companies on the Fortune 500:
11 Meg Whitman, Hewlett-Packard (HPQ)
39 Pat Woertz, MOREPatricia Sellers - Sep 23, 2011 2:00 PM ET
This is a great summer for powerful women.
There are the obvious victories, like Christine Lagarde grabbing the reigns of the International Monetary Fund after Dominque Strauss-Kahn's tumultuous fall from grace.
And then there are the successes that you won't read about in the tabloids. Two Fortune 500 companies, Sempra Energy (SRE) and Guardian Life, promoted women to CEO this past month--Debra Reed and Deanna Mulligan, respectively. Campbell Soup (CPB), named Denise MOREColleen Leahey, Reporter - Jul 12, 2011 2:30 PM ET
by Patricia Sellers, with Jessica Shambora
This is a groundbreaking day in American business. With the decision of Anne Mulcahy to pass the chief executive role at Xerox (XRX) to Ursula Burns, the Fortune 500 has its first ever woman-to-woman CEO hand-off. The transition, due July 1, will also make Burns, 50, the first African-American female CEO in the Fortune 500.
Mulcahy and Burns prove how far women in corporate America have MOREPatricia Sellers - May 21, 2009 4:50 PM ET
by Jessica Shambora
For this year's Fortune 500 issue, senior writer Geoff Colvin and I had the chance to look inside one of the list's most enduring performers: Johnson & Johnson (JNJ). The New Brunswick, N.J.-based health care giant is notoriously media shy, but in the midst of the economic doom and gloom, the company decided it was time to tell its 123-year story of success. What a story that is. MOREJessica Shambora, Writer-Reporter - Apr 27, 2009 2:25 PM ET
You may have heard that California is, by many measures, America's sickest state. My recent Fortune cover story, "Can Meg Whitman save California?" lays out the crisis -- and my Postcards colleague, Jessica Shambora, did a sidebar, "A State of Pain," that delivers the very depressing stats to back it up.
Well, I noticed an interesting pattern while I was perusing the new Fortune 500 issue and examining the lists that MOREPatricia Sellers - Apr 22, 2009 3:49 PM ET
Have you seen the Fortune 500, released today?
Click around Fortune.com. It's a rich trove of facts and stats--a window into the depressing economic condition of the U.S. The most dismal news: Overall profits of Fortune 500 companies cratered to $98.9 billion from $645 billion in 2007.
But the news about women is positive: A record 15 female CEOs populate the latest Fortune 500. That's reassuring (and surprising, actually) since we've seen MOREPatricia Sellers - Apr 20, 2009 1:18 PM ET
I'm on vacation this week -- or I'm supposed to be! The blog world never sleeps, I guess, nor does learning while away. So I'll share with you a few things I'm learning here in Allentown, Pa.
Aside from plowing snow, I've been plowing through the invite list for next year's Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit. This, as you may know, is the annual powwow that accompanies the release of what MOREPatricia Sellers - Dec 23, 2008 2:16 PM ET
|Stocks pop after jobs report|
|Where should you put your money now?|
|Economy is improving but why doesn't it feel that way?|
|November jobs report: Unemployment falls to 7%|
|2 million Facebook, Gmail and Twitter passwords stolen in massive hack|