Name: Marissa Mayer
Short biography: Marissa Mayer was born in 1975 in Wausau, Wisconsin. She attended Stanford University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in symbolic systems—the study of the meaning in an interconnected set of systems—and a master’s degree in computer science. Mayer joined a fledgling Google as an engineer in 1999 and in 2005 was promoted to vice president of Search Products and User Experience. She currently works at Google as the vice president of Location and Local Services, and is also a computer programming instructor at Stanford. She and her husband, Zachary Bogue, a venture capitalist, live in the San Fransisco area of California.1
Why they matter: Mayer, in addition to being one of the “faces of Google,” was number 42 on Forbes magazine’s 50 most powerful women in 2010; her rank in 2009, when she was the youngest woman ever to make the list, was 44th.3 Mayer has also been counted among in Newsweek’s 10 Tech Leaders of the Future, Red Herring’s 15 Women to Watch, and Business 2.0’s Silicon Valley Dream Team. Her work on artificial intelligence and interface design has led to several patents.4
Mayer is an outspoken advocate of women’s involvement in technological fields, and blames the lack of women in said fields on narrow “geek” stereotypes. "The number one most important thing we can do to increase the number of women in tech is to show a multiplicity of different role models," she says. "The stereotype of that very complete and rigid picture of what being a computer scientist means really hurts people's understanding and ability to identify with the role and say, 'Yes, this is something I can be in and want to be in.'”5
She believes that female involvement in tech fields will improve in years to come because of the numerous technological experiences and opportunities girls have from a young age. "When you use those things every day, you become curious in terms of how they were made,” she says. “And that type of technology hasn't touched us the way it does today for very long. I think it will create a curiosity and spur a lot more women into computer science and the technical fields."5
How they got where they are: In 1999, having recently graduated from Stanford, Mayer joined a start-up company founded by Larry Page and Sergey Brin—Google. She was one of the first 20 initial employees, and was the first female engineer the company hired.1 She’s worked at the company ever since, and has grown as it has.