Past Press Releases


For Immediate Release: July 18, 2012

Commentary by Sumru Erkut, Ph.D.

Crisis can spell opportunity for women. Marissa Mayer’s appointment to head Yahoo can be seen as one more example of a talented woman brought in to save a company in danger of failing, a so-called “glass cliff” phenomenon-in-action where a women is hired when a company is on the verge of disastrous financial plunge. But Mayer’s appointment can also be seen as the Yahoo board being jolted into recognizing the solid business case for hiring a woman to lead their company. Our research (with my colleagues Vicki Kramer and Alison Konrad) on the advantages that a critical mass of three or more women directors can bring to a corporate board suggests that, attuned to the perspectives of multiple stakeholders, women tend to have a collaborative leadership style that increases listening, social support, and asking tough questions and demanding direct and detailed answers, all leading to win-win problem-solving. Yahoo needs all of that.

We also find out that Mayer is soon to become a mother. What a boon to Yahoo. My research with women leaders suggests that time management, setting priorities, managing multiple demands simultaneously, flexibility to change priorities with changing demands, are some of the skills mothers practice every day that translate with great success to the business world. Successful parenting involves powers of persuasion, patience, setting priorities, juggling multiple tasks, and responding to the changing demands of children who are not necessarily rational negotiators --all the while contemplating the longer-term benefits of one's parental decisions—in essence, strategic thinking. Mothers and engaged fathers are constantly thinking about the long-term implications of their decisions to manage short-term contingencies. Good luck Marissa.

Sumru Erkut is an associate director and senior research scientist at the Wellesley Centers for Women. Her research encompasses variations in the course of child and adult development due to gender, race/ethnicity, social class, immigration, urbanization, and sexuality.

Scholars at the Wellesley Centers for Women undertake research and action projects that address three major areas: the social and economic status of women and girls and the advancement of their human rights both in the United States and around the globe; the education, care, and development of children and youth; and the emotional well-being of families and individuals.

Home page: Commentary: Biz crisis can spell opportunity for women leaders erkutA business crisis can spell opportunity for a woman leader like Marissa Mayer, who is becoming Yahoo's new CEO, says Sumru Erkut. Read more>>
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