Marissa Mayer

By Lyons, Daniel | Newsweek, January 3, 2011 | Go to article overview

Marissa Mayer


Lyons, Daniel, Newsweek


Byline: Daniel Lyons

Who says you have to be a guy to be a geek? This Google senior executive is teaching a new generation that femininity and technology are a winning formula.

Why are so few women working in the technology industry?

Well, it's something that I care a lot about changing. I love technology, and I don't think it's something that should divide along gender lines. I think there's a lot of contributions that have yet to be made overall in this space regardless of gender. I've seen studies that show there are things that happen along the way at middle school and high school with girls in math and science. I guess I was very lucky. I was always good at math and science, and I never realized that that was unusual or somehow undesirable. So one of the things I care a lot about is helping to remove that stigma, to show girls that you can be feminine, you can like the things that girls like, but you can also be really good at technology. You can be really good at building things.

What percentage of engineers in Silicon Valley are women?

It hovers somewhere around 15 to 17 percent in the technical areas, but here at Google we are slightly higher than that. We're at about 20 percent.

Does Google make an effort to recruit women and hire more female engineers than the industry average?

I was Google's first woman engineer. And right away during my interview, [Google cofounders] Larry [Page] and Sergey [Brin] said, "You know, we have seven engineers, and they're all guys. But we've thought a lot about how we want to start our company, and we've read a lot of books, and we know that organizations work better when there is gender balance. So it's important to us that we have a strong group of women, especially technical women, in the company."

It's something that they've had to work at over time. There was one point in the early days when we had hired 16 men in a row into engineering, and Larry said, "You know what? If we get to 20, I'm not going to sign any more offer letters until you start producing an equal ratio of women." That was the moment when we really started recruiting for technical women, helping to build programs around it, really putting a lot of effort into it. So it's something that the founders have always been very focused on.

In addition to hiring technical women, we've done a lot of things here that are aimed at making it a very good place for women to work. For example, in our hiring practices we make sure there's a woman engineer on each interview, and I think that makes a big difference in terms of how engineers relate to each other.

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