March 26, 2013

Report: Yahoo CEO (and Her Former Employer Google) Insist That New Hires ‘Must Hail From Ivy League Schools’

Sometimes one learns interesting things perusing stories at tech web sites.

A report by Michelle Maisto at Eweek about Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer has one nugget of information which has been out there for a while, and another which I believe hasn’t been and still isn’t widely known about both Mayer and her former employer Google. Both items indicate to me that Mayer as a woman and the two tech companies involved are getting free passes from the press which a male CEO and non-tech would likely not receive. Excerpts follow the jump (internal link is in original; bolds are mine):

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer’s provocative decisions continue to make headlines. Or, one might say, her decisions continue to be considered provocative.

Most recently, Mayer has come under fire for making a change to Yahoo’s hiring policy in which she now personally reviews every new hire, after they’ve been vetted by a team of colleagues­.

Critics of the new policy—which reportedly mirrors the little-discussed hiring policy of Mayer’s former bosses at Google—say it’s creating mountains of paperwork and slowing down the hiring process to a point that Yahoo is unable to hire talented people before they’ve been scooped up by rival companies.

There have been media reports that Mayer, again like her former Google bosses, has set specific criteria for new hires, such as that they must hail from Ivy League schools. While adding that it’s hard to know how real these criteria are, Finnigan offered, “By making these clear and blunt policy changes she’s trying to shock the system … and raise the bar on the work ethic at Yahoo, and then own the culture more. … She’s making clear that the buck stops with her.”

Mayer also came under fire earlier this year when she decided that Yahoo staff could no longer be home-based but had to come into the office. The decision set off a national debate about work-life balance and whether Mayer—who took the CEO role when she was seven months pregnant and reportedly recently built a nursery beside her office—was being particularly unfriendly to families.

When Best Buy CEO Hubert Joly made the same decision in March, the world barely paid attention.

A March 17 Boston Globe opinion piece pointed out that no one should feel surprised when Mayer makes the same decisions as her male peers—or hold those decisions against her.

“Mayer didn’t succeed by changing the rules of corporate America as she climbed the career ladder. She did it by winning at the old rules,” said the report.

I would humbly suggest that Joly’s move at Best Buy caused few ripples because he wasn’t seven months pregnant (I’m pretty confident about that one) and didn’t feel personally entitled to have a nursery beside his office while forcing every other employee in a similar situation to find offsite help.

As to the alleged Ivy League requirement for new hires, even after granting that the article may really only relate to technical and management positions, if we’re really to believe that Yahoo and Google limit eligible candidates to those who have attended the eight official Ivy League schools, that would mean that they’re excluding alums from the top four schools in computer science according to worldwide rankings in US News: MIT, Stanford, Carnegie Mellon, and University of California-Berkeley. The Ivy League rankings at US News are as follows: Harvard (5), Princeton (10), Cornell (14), Yale (25), Penn (32), Brown (46). Dartmouth and Brown aren’t even on the list.

My reaction as a user of these companies’ non-search products and services runs along these lines: No wonder they seem ever more difficult to understand, convoluted in how they work, and especially intrusive. They’re built by elitists who are out of touch with the lives of average people.

My reaction as a stockholder of either firm would be: Why aren’t we seeking out the best talent no matter where it is?

Despite the contorted comparison to Best Buy’s Joly, one would have expected the press to give Mayer a lot more heat than she received over her position on ending work-at-home arrangements, given the onsite nursery more than likely built at company expense. And just imagine the grief any other major company, especially if not in tech, would receive if they tried to limit their hiring to any other specific set of schools or other exclusionary and/or elitist criteria.

Cross-posted at


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