Silicon Valley is a boys’ club — some might even call it a Fortress of Boy-itude. Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg made herself one of the few female public figures in San Jose (AKA “Man Jose”) when she published Lean In earlier this year, but the media frenzy surrounding the publication of her memoir/self-help book belies the fact that the number of women CEOs in Tech Valley currently stands at a paltry one.
That lone trailblazer is Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, whose long blond hair and tastefully colorful outfits has long been used to represent the softer side of, or at least a less threaning demeanor in, Silicon Valley. But now, Mayer is trying to remake Yahoo’s image — and the tech industry with it — by hiring Katie Couric as the new face of Yahoo.
Last week, Mayer hired Couric as her company’s new “Global Anchor.” In a press release, Yahoo stated that the news pioneer “will help develop Yahoo News’ coverage with a growing team of global correspondents who will report on live world events, anchor groundbreaking interviews with major newsmakers and thought leaders, and much more.”
The advantage that Yahoo has over many new media companies — or, for that matter, old media companies — is that even though it may live in the public’s mind as an of-the moment web portal from half a generation ago (quick: how many people do you know under 40 who still have a Yahoo! email address?), it has a gargantuan audience. Some of this is from those old email signs-in, and surfers who never got comfortable with Google or Bing, and some of it is from Yahoo’s partnerships with some of the oldest of media concerns — wire services like the Associated Press and Reuters — that run their content through Yahoo News.
That Yahoo would continue to invest in online videos — and use a familiar face as a lure — at a time when video-ad revenue is on the rise is a no brainer. More noteworthy is the fact that Mayer has hired a public figure so close to her own appealing persona: an accomplished woman in a man’s world, but also photogenic, well-dressed, and not too threatening. Couric, after all, is most-known for a morning talk show, while Mayer has played up her femininity and sexiness in spreads for Vogue.
Together, Couric and Mayer constitute the new face of tech: smarter, older, familiar, and female.