Amid gripping discrimination lawsuits that could have a long-term impact on Silicon Valley's gender inequality problem, Google hired CFO Ruth Porat from Morgan Stanley to fill the same position at the leading tech company. Her appointment comes in the wake of Patrick Pichette announcing his retirement from Google as chief financial officer two weeks prior.
Her list of accomplishments are impressive — the California native earned her bachelor's at Stanford University, then her masters at University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School and the London School of Economics. She joined Morgan Stanley in 1987, advising some of the firm's largest tech IPOs, including Amazon, eBay, and Netscape, before becoming CFO in 2010. Business Insider reported that Porat played a crucial role during the financial crisis, advising the Treasury Department on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and the New York Federal Reserve Bank on AIG.
Porat said in the company's announcement of her hiring:
I’m delighted to be returning to my California roots and joining Google. Growing up in Silicon Valley, during my time at Morgan Stanley and as a member of Stanford’s Board, I’ve had the opportunity to experience first hand how tech companies can help people in their daily lives. I can’t wait to roll up my sleeves and get started.
Dubbed "the most powerful woman on Wall Street", Porat joining Google will instantly make her one of the most powerful women in Silicon Valley as well; both industries have been accused of a disparity in gender representation. Porat will start at Google on March 26, reporting directly to CEO Larry Page as the giant Silicon Valley company tries to overcome the slowing of search advertising revenue growth.
A New York Times profile from 2010 called Porat a "tireless worker," making calls to clients in the delivery room during the birth of her first son (Superwoman?). The article also cited a 1999 performance review in which Porat was described as "the best banker I have worked with." The breast cancer survivor also advocates finding the right "mix" of family and work, reported Politico, instead of aiming for a "balance" — which for her, based solely on the delivery room event, seems like an almost indistinguishable fuse.
In contrast, as former Google CFO Pichette wrote in a heartfelt memo about his retirement, his ultimate desire was to spend more time with his family. After a hike to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro, he declined his wife's suggestion that they extend their travels to all of Africa, but later reconsidered it.
A few weeks later, I was happy back at work, but could not shake away THE question: When is it time for us to just keep going? And so began a reflection on my/our life. ...
In the end, life is wonderful, but nonetheless a series of trade offs, especially between business/professional endeavours and family/community.
Meanwhile, Silicon Valley is on high alert as the string of sex discrimination lawsuits targeting the likes of Facebook and Twitter continues its course. The lawsuits claim that these companies had treated women unfairly, including disregarding them for promotion and overlooking complaints of sexual assault and coercion — even in spite of cautious efforts at improving equality at the workplace. But Silicon Valley still has a long way to go in that regard, and perhaps Porat's formidable presence could do well to equalize gender representation as well as emphasize the important role that women play in the industry.
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