Marissa Mayer and Five Other Prominent Female Tech CEOs: Are They on a 'Glass Cliff'?

Yahoo! (YHOO) on Monday disclosed in an SEC filing that CEO Marissa Mayer will resign from her role on the struggling internet company's board once the planned acquisition of Yahoo's core assets by Verizon (VZ) is completed.

It's the latest chapter in the story of female tech company CEOs, of which there have been several prominent examples in recent years. For many, their tenure has been underscored by the fact that they risk falling off a "glass cliff."

The glass cliff describes how women are more likely to be put in leadership positions during an "unsettled time" in the company. Mayer and Meg Whitman, the CEO of Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE)  and Chairwoman of HP Inc. (HPQ) , are just a few examples of women who inherited companies in a state of disrepair.

Stories of faltering female tech CEOs may stand out because there are so few of them leading large companies to begin with. Women make up just 4% of all CEOs in S&P 500 companies -- 20 in all. Of those 20, five serve in tech-related industries, according to the National Center for Women and Information Technology.

Despite some negative sentiment, several female tech CEOs have spearheaded major, successful restructuring programs that helped drive significant growth at their respective companies. 

Here's a look at how five female CEOs have fared as leaders of major tech companies:

Marissa Mayer, Yahoo CEO
Marissa Mayer, Yahoo CEO

Before joining Yahoo (YHOO) , Mayer began at Alphabet's (GOOGL) Google as employee No. 20 in 1999. There, she oversaw product development for the tech giant's search engine, Gmail, Google News and Google Images services. She later went on to head Google's maps and location services.

Yahoo brought Mayer on as CEO in 2012, during a time when the Santa Clara, CA-based company was feeling the pains of nearly flat revenue year-over-year and a host of CEOs, among other issues. The once powerful search engine was becoming a sinking ship and Mayer sought to make Yahoo cool again. Of the 53 acquisitions made during Mayer's tenure, Yahoo's $1.1 billion purchase of Tumblr was largely seen as their most promising move. Despite her efforts, though, Yahoo! was unable to turn around its revenue slide and more recently, has became tarnished by a string of massive account hacks, ultimately creating uncertainty around the fate of Yahoo's planned $4.8 billion sale to Verizon.

Ginni Rometty, IBM CEO
Ginni Rometty, IBM CEO

Rometty was hired as CEO of Armonk, NY-based IBM (IBM) in 2011 after serving as an employee of the company for more than 30 years. She has been credited with helping to steer the legacy computing giant into the rapidly growing cloud technologies business, as well as revamping IBM's Watson artificial intelligence system. Rometty also led a major reorganization of IBM, establishing a new structure that integrated its hardware, software and services segments to focus on specific industries. But a true turnaround in IBM's fortunes has been slow to materialize, and the company's share price is actually down slightly from where it stood when she took over the company. 

Meg Whitman, HPE CEO
Meg Whitman, HPE CEO

Whitman, who was named CEO in 2011, is widely known for her decision to split the technology giant into two separate companies, Hewlett Packard Enterprise and HP Inc. As part of a broader restructuring plan, Whitman decided that Hewlett Packard Enterprise would handle cloud computing, data center hardware and software, while HP Inc. would continue focusing on printers and PCs. The separation would kickstart a major turnaround at a company that, before Whitman's arrival, faced extinction from competitors and shifting tides in the software industry.

Prior to joining HP, Whitman served as CEO of e-commerce site eBay (EBAY) , where she grew the company's workforce from 30 to 15,000 employees before exiting her role in 2007.

Safra Catz, Oracle co-CEO
Safra Catz, Oracle co-CEO

Catz became co-CEO of the Redwood City, CA-based cloud behemoth Oracle (ORCL) in 2014. Like HP and IBM, critics argued that Oracle was slow to adapt to the cloud. Recently, however, the company's earnings have been driven higher by increased demand for its cloud offerings, overshadowing sluggish sales in its software licensing business. Catz ranked as the highest-paid female executive in 2015 with an annual salary of $56.9 million. She was also added to Trump's presidential transition team in December 2016.

Lisa Su, Advanced Micro Devices CEO
Lisa Su, Advanced Micro Devices CEO

Su became CEO of Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) in 2014 and was tasked with fixing a host of issues and focusing on higher-growth, more profitable markets. The Sunnyvale, CA-based chipmaker had become too reliant on the PC market, was facing about $2.5 billion in debt and revenue remained largely stagnant over five years. Advanced Micro has since made a comeback, surfacing as a major challenger for rival semiconductor companies Intel (INTC) and Nvidia (NVDA) . AMD's stock price has roughly quadrupled in the short time Su has been CEO.

Carly Fiorina, former HP CEO
Carly Fiorina, former HP CEO

Before her bid for the White House in 2016, Fiorina served as CEO of HP from 1999 to 2005. Reviews of her tenure have largely been mixed: Fiorina has said she doubled the computing giant's revenue and led a successful merger with PC manufacturer Compaq in 2001. But critics contend that her tenure wasn't as rosy. Fiorina laid off about 30,000 workers in in 2001, while HP shares tumbled at least 50% under her lead. In 2005, she was fired from the company.

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