The Cute CEO: For Women, Does Cute + Sweet = C-Suite?

So it's not just my imagination. Marissa Mayer clones seem to be showing up with increasing frequency in business media lately.
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So it's not just my imagination. Marissa Mayer clones seem to be showing up with increasing frequency in business media lately.

I flash on a remarkable Forbes piece from the January 7, 2014 issue: "Do Attractive CEOs Really Boost Their Companies' Stock Prices?" The question arises out of a 33-page paper by two University of Wisconsin academics: Beauty is Wealth: CEO Appearance and Shareholder Value, in which the authors obtained a Facial Attractiveness Index for 677 CEOs from the Standard & Poor's 500 companies, based on their "facial geometry."

Since the time of ancient Greece, a person's facial geometry, including the golden ratio, has been well documented to relate to beauty and attractiveness... In a competitive labor market, given the evidence that better looking CEOs receive higher pay, we would expect that more attractive CEOs contribute to shareholder value in some way(s)... The construction of this score is based on scientific research, various elements of neoclassical beauty, and statistical analysis.

That, an apple-cheeked, milk-fed blonde from Wisconsin (is it coincidence that the "Beauty Is Wealth" paper came out of Milwaukee?), a smoky, brain-firing-too-fast-for-complete-sentences, Demi Moore voice, and the jackpot of being the first female engineer and 20th employee hired by Google. Who wouldn't invest in that?

To Ms. Mayer I say, "Good for you!"

Good for any woman. And good for me. Assuming a qualified standard of experience, appropriateness and business reality in the selection of any woman to a position of influence or authority, fiduciary or otherwise, given the enduring paucity of female percentages in the highest places we ladies need every possible advantage -- and with this cool study, perhaps my own shelf life, with the technology of HD makeup and retinol, won't expire before the trend does. Failing that, put even former or semi-cuteness in front of Patrick Demarchelier, Mario Testino or Annie Leibovitz, and we all have a better shot at rising into the C-suite like Venus on a seashell. Like MM (is it coincidence that these are also Marilyn Monroe's initials?) I share their edge in that I too am blonde, my first name is THAT CLOSE to Marissa and Marilyn, I too verbalize incomprehensibly for most earthlings, and I too am into fabulous heels.

They also analyzed 1,830 merger and acquisition deals between 1985 and 2012 and found that more attractive CEOs negotiated better terms for their companies than did average-looking CEOs. "The evidence thus suggests that more attractive CEOs receive more surpluses for their firms from M&A transactions, a finding consistent with the hypothesis that more attractive CEOs improve shareholder value through superior negotiating prowess," says the paper.

The financial world is again suffering tech bubble amnesia, but the allure is irresistible. And she just makes it all sexy, by any definition. Mayer was bumping into the promotion ceiling at Google when Yahoo! recruited her in 2012, a move that had Game Change all over it -- what the media calls a story with, er, legs. A kind of Hail Marissa pass, after successive Yahoo! CEO firings and mounting shareholder panic over Yahoo! looking increasingly long in the tooth and struggling to profitably define itself. I mean, look what that did for the 2008 Republican vice-presidential nominee from Alaska, if not the campaign.

They're saying that the Alibaba IPO might be where the Marissa bubble bursts. She has to justify her jackpot all over again, from how to spend the $5.1 billion Yahoo! made from the sale of 121.7 million Alibaba shares in the deal to somehow optimizing Yahoo!'s remaining 401.8 million Alibaba shares. Yahoo shares fell 8.2% in the first two days following the Alibaba IPO on September 20 as, with Alibaba shares now available on the open market, owning Yahoo! just to have a stake in the sensational Chinese e-commerce giant no longer makes sense.

Still, I'm betting on the glamorous MM. Turns out the average CEO scored just 7.3 on facial geometry and, off the top, I can't think of one with an engineering degree. Oh, and the girl can cook.

Marie Woolf is principal, founder and executive editor at Woolf Media and WMFeatures.

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