Too sexy for ya? Yahoo CEO poses for Vogue

Marissa Mayer’s glamour shot has sparked a boatload of debate about whether sexy magazine photos are appropriate for a CEO.

The glamour-shot photo of Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer in the September issue of Vogue is tame by fashion-magazine standards, but the fact that a huge company’s chief exec is lying on a deck chair in a form-fitting dress has divided the business community.

An online CNBC poll asking whether Mayer’s photo was appropriate for a CEO got more than 3,700 responses, 60 percent of which said it was fine, 40 percent of which said it was not OK.

Detractors say it reflects a double standard.

“I can’t think of the last time a men’s magazine chose to profile a CEO by asking him to sprawl out on a couch,” Patrice Grell Yursik, creator of, told CNN. “When, let’s say, GQ or Esquire is profiling someone on this level, they’re not asking them to unbutton their shirt and pose suggestively with any kinds of props.”

Another commenter, Anna Nicole Moose, said “We fight so hard to be where we are and prove that it wasn’t our cute bodies, perky boobs, or cute face that got us there.”

Several other critics pointed out that an implication seems to be that women who wouldn’t get a photo like Mayer’s in Vogue seem to be at a disadvantage when trying to snag CEO jobs.

As the CNBC poll indicates, plenty of others think Mayer’s photo is OK. Blogger Justgngr wrote:

There’s no reason that beautiful women can’t be industry leaders. Part of achieving equality for women in the workplace means that women shouldn’t have to succumb to societal pressures – in both directions. Women shouldn’t have to “harden” or “soften” themselves when in positions of leadership, but that also means women shouldn’t have to downplay their beauty in order to succeed.

Communications choreographer Kevin Brett blogged that the very fact that people are talking about the photo may have been the very purpose of it:

How many other publicly traded company CEOs would be invited by Vogue to pose in a horizontal fashion? What subliminal messages are being sent, particularly in a predominant Silicon Valley engineering culture? Talk about tongues wagging at the water cooler and the inevitable social media chat.

Maybe that is what this gambit is all about?

What do you think of the photo? Too far? No problem? A big publicity gambit? Please let us know in the comments.

(Image via Mikael Jansson, Vogue)

Topics: PR

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