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Yahoo CEO Mayer
Yahoo CEO Mayer's Nap Draws Snark, Sympathy

By Brandon Bailey
June 26, 2014 10:08AM

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At an international ad conference in Cannes, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer came under fire for a lackluster speech, and delaying a client dinner because she had fallen asleep. But as the story rippled through tech and advertising circles, boosted by online news sites and social media, reactions were sharply divided between critics and sympathizers.

It's the nap that's been heard about all over the world -- or at least the tech world. Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer earned a headline in The Wall Street Journal this week for something most senior executives wouldn't want to admit. It seems she kept a room full of important advertising executives -- whom she hoped to woo as Yahoo clients -- waiting for nearly two hours in a fancy Cannes restaurant in France last week, before she finally arrived late for dinner and explained she had fallen asleep.


Yahoo didn't respond to a request for comment Tuesday, but according to reports from the Journal and the Business Insider blog, some of the executives were highly annoyed. To make matters worse, the dinner came the same day that Mayer gave what several accounts described as a lackluster speech to a larger audience at the international ad conference, an important industry event held every year in Cannes.

All in all, not a good day for a CEO who's trying to turn around Yahoo's struggling advertising business, in an industry that relies heavily on face-to-face relationships with key executives.

But as the story rippled through tech and advertising circles, boosted by online news sites and social media, reactions were sharply divided.

Critics viewed Mayer's late arrival through the lens of her reputation as a demanding and somewhat imperious manager. "It's another instance where she demonstrated that she doesn't understand the value of clients, ad revenue or agencies," one ad executive told the Journal, anonymously.

But others were more sympathetic. "Bet money Marissa Mayer isn't the 1st executive 2 show up late to a client dinner," Elizabeth Gorzney, a telecommunications marketing manager, said in a Twitter post. "Interesting how the media portrays women in leadership."

The story is unfair, agreed Joan Williams, a professor at the UC's Hastings law school and co-author of a new book, "What Works for Women at Work." In an interview, Williams said the episode seems a classic example of how male and female executives are treated differently because of gender bias.

"He's busy, she's highhanded. He's assertive, she's aggressive," said Williams. "She was late to a meeting -- hello?"

Other commenters said Mayer may have been exhausted, noting that she's the mother of a young son or could have been jet-lagged. Yahoo hasn't offered an explanation and Williams said it's nobody's business.

"Marissa Mayer oversleeps a lil bit and everyone loses their minds Cut her some slack," tech enthusiast Abhiram Ramesh of Bangalore, India, wrote on Facebook. "She's just human too for god's sakes."

© 2014 San Jose Mercury News (CA) under contract with NewsEdge. All rights reserved.

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