Marissa Mayer was once Google's golden girl. She was the first female engineer at Google and went on to become the face of the corporation at many important events. She is credited for being part of the team that pioneered Google's hugely functional user interface, which is minimalistic in design. Despite her many successes, she was passed up for a promotion in 2011. In July 2012, Marissa Mayer finally left Google to become the President and CEO of Yahoo!. She left for a role that suited her better in a place where she could make a larger impact. Whispers of gender bias started to spread after Mayer's move in the middle of her pregnancy.
Mayer was part of a committee of close advisors for Eric E. Schmidt, the former CEO of Google. When Larry Page replaced Schmidt as Google's CEO in 2011, it brought about a lot of other changes in management. Mayer was dropped from Page's elite committee after less than a year.
Google now has three women in senior positions. They are: Shona Brown, senior vice president of Google.org; Susan Wojcicki, senior vice president of advertising; and Rachel Whetstone, senior vice president of communications. Ann Mather, Diane B. Greene and Shirley M. Tilghman sit on the board of directors.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the number of women working in professional computing jobs has dropped to 25% of the total number of people working in computing jobs. That's an 8% drop between 2000 and 2011. The number of men working in this field climbed 16% in the same period. To play devil's advocate, Google has tried to stem the outflow of women from its workforce in the past. Women account for one third of Google's staff. Google has recognized patterns such as women not revealing too much information about their achievements. The company has also observed that many women leave the workforce to take care of their newborns. To prevent female employees from leaving when they get pregnant, Google now offers five months rather than three months for maternity leave. Senior women at Google are encouraging younger female employees to put themselves up more often for promotions.
The fact that Google has lost women in top positions, despite them being early employees who helped shape the company into what it is today, is truly a cause for concern.
Advertising is essential for Google to earn revenue. Google's advertising department is headed by Susan Wojcicki, who's in Page's inner circle. Google ad products accounted for roughly 96% of the company's 2011 revenue. The number of women may be few in the Google inner circle, but Wojcicki happens to be in charge of the company's biggest revenue stream. Four of Google's original 20 employees were women.
Google has a better record than most companies when it comes to the number of women in top positions. The broader question that may need to be asked is: Why are there fewer women in top positions? There seems to be a more urgent discussion on how the workplace can be adjusted to keep more women in the workforce.
The Bottom Line
With responsibilities like raising children and various social pressures, some women can have a more difficult time climbing the corporate ladder. There needs to be better support systems and work alternatives in place for women to contribute to the workplace even more meaningfully than they already are. The women at Google are seeking greater positions of power and the company is recognizing that.