SAN FRANCISCO – Google has hired Morgan Stanley’s chief financial officer, Ruth Porat, as its CFO, at a time when Silicon Valley is under fire for hiring and promoting too few women.
The Internet search leader’s CFO of the past seven years, Patrick Pichette, announced earlier this month that he was retiring so he could travel around the world with his wife.
Porat, 58, will become Google’s highest-ranking female executive when she starts her new job on May 26. Her last day at Morgan Stanley will be April 30, ending a 28-year career at the New York investment bank.
Google Inc. and other Silicon Valley heavyweights, including Apple Inc. and Facebook Inc., are trying to add more women to their payrolls. The push began during the past 10 months after the companies released data revealing that women only filled 15 to 20 per cent of the tech jobs, which tend to pay the most.
Kleiner Perkins, a venture capital firm that has financed Google and other prominent technology companies, is currently embroiled in a San Francisco trial that is airing embarrassing allegations of sexual discrimination. In the past week, sexual discrimination lawsuits have been filed by women who formerly worked at Facebook and Twitter.
Porat’s defection from a top job on Wall Street serves as the latest reminder of the technology industry’s allure as its products reshape culture and enrich the companies creating them.
Google has been at the forefront of upheaval during the past 15 years. Besides building the Internet’s dominant search engine and digital ad network, the Mountain View, California, company also boasts the top mobile operating system in Android and the most popular video site in YouTube, as well as the popular Chrome browser and Gmail service.
The success has spawned three multibillionaires — Google CEO Larry Page, co-founder Sergey Brin and Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt. Thousands of other Google employees, including its former chef and masseuse, have become millionaires.
Google, which started in 1998 in a Silicon Valley garage after raising $100,000, now has a market value of nearly $400 billion. Morgan Stanley, founded in 1935, has a market value of about $72 billion.
The terms of Porat’s contract at Google weren’t immediately disclosed. She received compensation valued at $10.1 million from Morgan Stanley in 2013. Pichette received compensation valued at $5.2 million in the same year.
Porat, Morgan Stanley’s CFO since 2009, won Wall Street’s respect for helping the bank regain its financial stability after sinking into deep trouble along with much of the rest of the financial service industry during the Great Recession. Her investor-friendly attitude fed speculation that Google may be more apt to return some of its $64 billion in cash to shareholders, either through dividends or by buying back stock.
Porat has California roots and connections on Google’s board of directors.
Although Porat was born in England, her father was a physicist who spent 26 years working at Stanford University, where she received her undergraduate degree in economics and international relations in 1979.
Porat also sits on Stanford’s board of trustees with two members of Google’s board, K. Ram Shriram and John Hennessy. Hennessy, who is also Stanford’s president, is Google’s lead independent director.
Google’s shares rose $12.25 to $577.62 in Tuesday’s afternoon trading. The stock has been lagging the overall market for the past 15 months, partly because of investors’ frustration with Google’s history of spending heavily on far-flung projects, such as driverless cars and Internet-connected glasses, that may take years to pay off.