Almost three days after the Wall Street Journal reported that Marissa Mayer had allegedly missed a dinner meeting in Cannes after falling asleep, the financial press is apparently still discussing it.
We’ve criticized Mayer many times on Pando: For her attempts to turn around Yahoo — and even for her decision to take the job. We’ve said she has failed to articulate a new strategy, I’ve said the only real thing she’s accomplished is finally unlocking Alibaba’s value, I’ve said I don’t understand a strategy that includes both Tumblr and Katie Couric, I’ve said her landgrab of acquihires is at best a short term fix to get exhausted engineering talent in the door in between gigs. And last week I said that she has destroyed the only reason I still went to Yahoo, Yahoo Finance.
But I just can’t muster up a sliver of outrage that a working mother overslept on exactly one occasion, at the end of a long day, while traveling in another time zone… and that, rather than coming up with a bullshit excuse, she told the truth and apologized.
Accusing Mayer for being human is even more absurd than the outrage over calling motherhood “easy” and eschewing maternity leave. It’s more absurd than the week long media shit show about her asking Yahooligans to actually work in the office.
So let’s just call this what it is: Insane, outrageous sexism.
I say that as someone who usually gets shit for arguing that there isn’t overt sexism in the tech world. I’ve argued that raising venture capital wasn’t materially harder for me as a woman– even though I took a newborn fundraising with me the first time I did it. I’ve argued that Twitter shouldn’t name a woman to its board just ‘cause. I’ve argued that if we want more women starting companies, more women should simply start companies so great that people have to invest, work for them, and take them seriously. (Something that, by the way, has been happening in the startup world of late, particularly in categories like social and ecommerce.)
But the truth is, there’s absolutely no way Mayer would be getting so much abuse if she was a male executive. Too much of American capitalism and the tech world is full of bro’d out, macho posturing. We criticize euphemisms like “pivot” and the fact that so few leaders can just own up to mistakes and say they are sorry. And yet, when one does, we crucify her. Had Mayer lied and said that there was a company emergency or a family emergency — the kind of lies executives use every day across corporate America — this would have never been a story.
Instead Marissa Mayer told the truth, and acted like a real human being, and now she’s being killed for it.
That should probably stop.