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June 27, 2021

Yahoo! chief Marissa Mayer turns the other cheek

Once again, I'm glad I'm not a woman. I just don't have the patience.

Earlier this week, Yahoo! CEO and former Google executive Marissa Mayer took the high road at the company's annual meeting when she decided to ignore a loud-mouthed shareholder who sauntered up to the microphone and blurted: "I'm George Polis. I have 2,000 shares of Yahoo. I'm Greek, and I'm a dirty old man, and you look attractive, Marissa."

Some in the audience seemed to find it all very amusing while others simply sat in silence, highlighting the way women in power are often viewed. No one said anything to Polis, however, who then went on to complain about the company's stock performance and whether it would soon be issuing a dividend.

Given that nobody would talk to young CEOs like Mark Zuckerberg or Jeff Weiner that way, do you think Mayer should have taken him to task, as high-profile execs like Sheryl Sandberg or Meg Whitman might have done?

Or was she correct in simply ignoring his comments altogether?

There's no arguing that the workplace presents different challenges for females than for males, and the higher the profile, the greater the challenges. And many women have heard much worse, I'm sure.

But whether self deprecating or not, the comments were clearly out of line.

While other shareholders did congratulate Mayer for breaking through the so-called “glass ceiling” by becoming the leader of a major technology company in her 30s (while pregnant with her first child), the churlish tone certainly affected the balance of the meeting.

When it comes to backhanded compliments at work or simply inappropriate remarks, do you ignore them or fire back? Have you ever intervened verbally on someone else's behalf?

By Gordon Powers, MSN Money



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...