CEO’s Vogue spread sparks controversy

by Cameron Edmond22 Aug 2013

Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo, has caused controversy after a 3000-word profile in Vogue featured a stylised photograph of her in a fashionable blue dress, lying on a white lawn chair.

Mayer joins a slew of male CEOs who have appeared in Men’s magazines such as Alan Joyce of Qantas and Radek Sali of Swisse who have appeared in GQ. Despite the commonality of such appearances for male executives, Mayer’s photograph has sparked debate in the media regarding the representation of women in the C-suite.

Media outlets and corporate workers commented on the piece being wince-inducing, with claims the photograph undermined Mayer’s credibility, CNN reported.

However, others have defended the piece. “We’re used to seeing CEOs standing like Superman or leaning forward at comically large desks. These are masculine poses thanks to the fact that 96% of CEOs are male,” Linda Lacina, special reports editor at, said.

Steve Cody, writing for, stated his concern with the piece working against Mayer. He highlighted the article’s opening quote in which Mayer discusses her love for heavily divisible numbers, questioning if such comments would inspire the business community.

In the interview, Mayer stated “And I was like, 'Oh right, it would be nice to have an impact that’s bigger than just me.' It’s not like I had a grand plan where I weighed all the pros and cons of what I wanted to do – it just sort of happened.’”

Cody wrote in response: “Like, how totally rad is that? Marissa just, kinda, like, suddenly rose through Google’s ranks, and was plucked away by a knight in shining armor (Daniel Loeb, an active investor on Yahoo’s board) to run the beleaguered tech giant.”

With Mayer’s reinvigoration of Yahoo is overshadowed by the criticism towards the article, the broader issues facing women’s ascension to the C-suite are once again brought to light.

HC has previously reported on the array of factors holding back women from advancing to executive positions. While the mind-sets of others in the workplace can prevent women’s rise, many women have stated their own fears and anxieties have prevented them from advancing.

Dissatisfaction with corporate politics has also been highlighted as a reason women are not entering the C-suite.


With concern for the politics and older workplace cultures holding women back in the workplace, is Mayer’s appearance in Vogue perhaps a positive? What do you think of the photo and the article?

*Image credit: Vogue. Click here to read Mayer’s profile.


  • by Al 22/08/2013 3:02:29 PM

    As the article suggests....If this was a male photo shoot and article (and there has been MANY) we wouldn't be having this debate. I would also suggest that if it was a more mature and less attractive female in boring conservative suit attire and a more masculine pose, we also wouldn't be having this debate and no one would have critised her comments. Good on Mayer and well done Vogue.

  • by SM 22/08/2013 4:58:02 PM

    I'll start by saying that I am female (not quite 40) & in the C-suite. I worked damned hard to get here as have all my colleagues (regardless of gender). I have been privileged to have a career where I have not had to fight harder because I am female. Should I ever be featured in an article, you can sure as hell bet that I will not be posing in a sun dress, on a lawn chair. Why? Because in the workplace, the kind of people who are credible are ones who say, do & look the part. Summer dresses & lawn chairs are for catalogues or dating sites! It's true we would never have this conversation about a man, because a man probably would not have taken a photo in his board shorts & T-shirt lying on a lawn chair. I get what they were trying to achieve, but "in real life", image/brand is critical. That's why when we go to a job interview we dress & behave in a particular way. You don't have to like it, but you need to be real. If you want to be taken seriously, then play the part - regardless of your gender.

  • by Annie 22/08/2013 5:38:45 PM

    I think we have to remember where this article was - it was in Vogue - not the Business Weekly - If they were offering me a nice dress, hair and makeup for a shot - Id be happy to take it up. We dont have to act like 'Men" to get to the top - let the soft fluffy stuff show - thats whats been missing at the top for a long time... Women can be "women" and make good leaders.

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