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."
Here's the image that Yahoo (YHOO) CEO Marissa Mayer put up on the screen yesterday when she talked publicly for the first time about the HR policy that brought her worldwide controversy.
"I need to talk about the elephant in the room," Mayer said at the Great Place to Work conference in Los Angeles. In case you don't get her joke, the "WFH" on the pachyderm's back is the CEO's code MOREPatricia Sellers - Apr 19, 2013 5:34 PM ET
A look at Silicon Valley's two most powerful women from a journalist who has known both for nearly a decade--and offers news about Mayer's controversial HR policy and nursery at Yahoo
Never in the history of book marketing has there been a crusade quite like Sheryl Sandberg's. Last Thursday in New York, the Facebook (FB) COO hobnobbed with former U.S. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, film director George Lucas and Barbara Walters MOREPatricia Sellers - Mar 11, 2013 3:37 PM ET
FORTUNE -- Marissa Mayer made a global splash last summer for landing the Yahoo (YHOO) CEO job while six months pregnant.
Then she grabbed the spotlight for starting a cultural revolution at the dozing tech giant—using perks like free smartphones and her so-called PB&J initiative to un-stick innovation.
Today, with Mayer making the front page of the New York Times (above the fold, no less) for her decision to require employees to MOREPatricia Sellers - Feb 26, 2013 3:23 PM ET
FORTUNE -- Five months after Marissa Mayer quit Google (GOOG) to become the new CEO of Yahoo (YHOO), veteran Googler and SVP Shona Brown is leaving the company as well.
Brown, who joined Google from McKinsey in 2003, has remained as under the radar as Mayer floated above it. Highly analytical and introverted, Brown has spent the bulk of her Google career overseeing Business Operations—advising senior management on business strategy, organizational MOREPatricia Sellers - Dec 14, 2012 3:00 PM ET
"Marissa Mayer on God, Family & Yahoo" turned out to be Fortune.com's No. 1 story on Facebook (FB) and LinkedIn (LNKD) last week--and one of the most-read Fortune.com stories of 2012.
When I sat on stage with Mayer last Tuesday at Fortune's Most Powerful Women dinner in Palo Alto--for the first interview that the Yahoo (YHOO) CEO has done since taking the job in July--I had no clue that her comments MOREPatricia Sellers - Dec 3, 2012 2:34 PM ET
Here is Yahoo (YHOO) CEO Marissa Mayer talking with me Tuesday evening in her first interview since she joined the troubled web giant from Google (GOOG) in July.
At the Fortune Most Powerful Women dinner in Palo Alto, California, she covered the gamut: turnaround plans, mobile strategy, acquisition outlook...and baby Macallister.
More Most Powerful Women coveragePatricia Sellers - Nov 28, 2012 1:22 PM ET
FORTUNE -- Marissa Mayer did her first interview since becoming CEO of Yahoo (YHOO) last night. She sat down with me at the Fortune Most Powerful Women dinner in Palo Alto, California.
Here's my colleague Michal Lev-Ram's story about the interview.
And here are two clips of my interview with Mayer:
By the way, even though Mayer was heading home to her two-month-old baby, Macallister, and bound for Washington early this morning to meet MOREPatricia Sellers - Nov 28, 2012 11:42 AM ET
The Yahoo chief will sit for her first interview since taking the helm.
FORTUNE -- Where will Marissa Mayer take Yahoo? I'll be asking Yahoo's new CEO tonight, on stage at the Fortune Most Powerful Women dinner in Palo Alto.
This will be Mayer's first interview since she moved to Yahoo (YHOO) from Google (GOOG) last July. You can watch it tomorrow right here on Postcards.
There are lots of topics we could MOREPatricia Sellers - Nov 27, 2012 7:00 AM ET
Marissa Mayer's baby boy has a name...Macallister.
The 37-year-old boss left Google (GOOG) in July to lead a high-profile turnaround at Yahoo (YHOO)--the first person ever to take charge at a Fortune 500 company while pregnant.
Ever since Mayer delivered her baby on September 30, the public has known him only as BBBB—Big Baby Boy Bogue, the moniker given to him by mom and dad, Zachary Bogue.
Turns out, Mayer and husband Zack, MOREPatricia Sellers - Oct 22, 2012 2:55 PM ET
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