“People are looking at you as a role model as well, looking at you as an example,” Savannah Guthrie told Marissa Mayer on the Today Show. “Has that been difficult to deal with?”
Looking slightly flustered, Mayer repeated a response she had given to a previous question about her age: “Again, I haven’t spent a lot of time looking at it or even thinking about it. I’ve really been focusing on the products and what we need to do.”
It’s understandable that Guthrie took an opportunity to ask that rare bird, the female CEO of a large tech company, questions about her unusual situation. But it’s also understandable why Mayer consistently returns boiler-plate responses to such inquiries. Responding to them could send her down a rabbit hole that runs deep:
What’s her opinion of stay-at-home mothers?
What’s she doing about the income disparity between women and men?
Should paid maternity leave be mandatory?
How is she supporting women in the developing world?
Will she be lobbying for this bill that creates better work conditions for women this year?
And when can we expect her book about women in the workplace and the subsequent dates on a speaking tour?
Mayer’s male peers at big technology companies—Larry Page, Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates—aren’t bothered with this line of questioning. (“Mr. Jobs, is it difficult to be seen as a role model for men?” Sounds wrong, doesn’t it?) And it’s not just because they’re men. It’s because they’re busy running companies.
I have been rather struck in recent interviews how much time is spent asking Mayer about her experience as a mother, how her child is doing, and she balances her responsibilities. When was the last time a male CEO was asked about his family during a significant interview?