Marissa Mayer, the newly appointed CEO of Yahoo, has gotten plenty of attention since the announcement of her new position was made public on Monday. But there's one thing that hasn't gotten much coverage: her roots as a Finnish American.
Mayer is not the only famous Finn to be living stateside; actors Pamela Anderson and Matt Damon also have Finnish heritage. But who are Finnish Americans, and why is it we never hear anything about them?
For one thing, Finland itself isn't much in the news these days; its population of about 5 million people is about as stable as you can get. Finland ranks among the most highly developed countries on earth. Its society is fairly homogenous in terms of ethnicity and religion. It has an excellent record for societal equality, even across genders and income levels.
Finland's big headlines this week: The government just reached an agreement with Spain on a deal to provide aid to Spanish banks in exchange for collateral, and two men have been indicted for killing wolves in violation of poaching laws.
Here's a fun fact about the Finns: They're great with fast cars. It's really not clear why Finland is such fertile ground for budding professional racecar drivers, but the pattern is astounding. The Guardian reports that Finland has produced more Formula One world champion racers per capita than any other nation on earth.
Finnish racer Mika Salo offered his own explanation as to why his countrymen perform so well on paved tracks: Our mentality is very good for racing -- never give up. Very stubborn, jealous and selfish people. So you'd rather do well yourself than let somebody else do well.
That mentality sounds better suited to a place like the United States than to the egalitarian welfare state of Finland -- could that be why so many decided to cross the Atlantic Ocean a century ago?
Many Americans with Finnish heritage can trace their history back to the biggest wave of Finnish immigration, which spanned several decades right around the turn of the 20th century. Many of these moves were motivated by smooth-talking American recruiters who sought cheap labor for their shipping and mining enterprises. Simultaneously, there was push from Russia to impose its own culture and language on the Finnish people, causing many to seek greener pastures.
About 700,000 Finnish Americans live in the United States today, according to the 2010 Census.
And now, one of them runs one of the most powerful tech and media companies in the country. Mayer visited Finland just last year to see her ancestral homeland for the first time, and has tweeted what she refers to as a Finnish saying: Nothing is more permanent than temporary.
It is clear that this tech-savvy CEO is in touch with her Finnish roots, and her ascension to Yahoo's top spot should be a point of pride for Finns everywhere.