Why Marissa Mayer will emerge from the ashes of Yahoo

Marissa Mayer will not fade off into the distance. In fact, she might emerge as a tech leader at another company.

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Credit: Yahoo/IDGNS

There’s one important thing that happened while Marissa Mayer was in charge of Yahoo.

She emerged as a tech icon, someone we desperately needed in an industry that is so male dominated it’s almost laughable. When you think of the tech titans -- Facebook, Yahoo, Twitter, and Google -- you might accept that they have brilliant ideas and have changed how we do business on a daily basis, but it’s also true that they are slanted to one gender in terms of the top leadership role.

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It will be even more disappointing to learn, especially for those who supported Hillary Clinton for President with hopes that we would not have yet another top male leader, that she will resign from what is left of Yahoo (and the company will be renamed to Altaba) after the sale to Verizon goes through as planned, all according to a filing with the SEC.

Yet, there’s reason to have hope.

For one, Mayer is not going to fade off into the distance just yet. She’s only 41, and her brief tenure as the CEO at Yahoo -- she started in 2012 -- is perhaps only a precursor to what will come next. No one knows what that will be quite yet, but I do have some theories.

One is that Mayer will move over to another high profile company, also as the CEO. You could argue that she took over on the helm of a sinking ship, one that amassed an incredible number of users and a mighty allure for advertisers but long ago lost any hope of actually creating anything innovative. Mayer ran a tight ship that was sinking, which rarely works out.

Yet, after seeing her speak at conferences, watching how she’s handled some of the stress, and (most importantly) the fact that she is so well-known now as a business leader, it makes sense that she would drift over to another company almost right away.

Here’s my guess: It’s going to be Twitter.

Why? For starters, we all know Jack Dorsey, the current CEO and the cofounder, doesn’t seem to know what to do to make Twitter profitable, and that is one of Mayer’s strengths. We don’t think of her as an innovator like Elon Musk or Mark Zuckerberg, but she can inspire action among those who are under her command (and possibly a little afraid of her intellect and number-crunching approach). Twitter doesn’t really need a flashy leader, it needs a leader who will get things done in order and make sure there is some purpose to even exist beyond making random insults.

More importantly, Twitter needs the positive attention -- a distraction from their perils. It’s a melting pot of grumpy trolls, political operatives, journalists, and tech gurus that could be something far more important. Mayer would switch the spotlight off the total lack of concern at Twitter for online harassment and, like perhaps like no other tech luminary, lead the charge to Make Twitter Great Again.

My view is that having women in tech leadership change the dynamic for the better. We're way too one-sided, there's too much of one viewpoint. One good example of this is Megan Smith, the smart CTO of the United States who has a way of communicating information that is understandable and even profound. One of her talks at SxSW made a big impression on me (the father of three girls) when she said the dominant view of a geek these days is always a male with black glasses, which has caused a serious problem when it comes to girls going to engineering schools.

Maybe Marissa Mayer can change that, too.

I hope it happens. There’s nothing like getting a second chance to correct a failing company and figure out how to increase revenue and find a purpose. Mayer is one of only a handful of people who might have a chance at turning Twitter into before it becomes another tech casualty.

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