Marissa Mayer…Hmmmm

Posted on Wednesday, October 10th, 2012 by Print This Post Print This Post

Categories - Featured, News


I’ve been noodling the Marissa Mayer issue for a few months. It is not an easy topic. In one respect I am empowered by her being named CEO of Yahoo! PARTICULARLY because she landed the job not just as a woman, but as a pregnant woman. That is GREAT for women.

However, when she was appointed, the fact that she (or her handlers) immediately felt the need to state her maternity plans (not take much) really sat wrong with me. But again, I noodled…I discussed with co-workers and friends, contacts both in and out of Yahoo!. What did this mean for women, for women in the workplace, for the example to young women contemplating if they can ‘have it all,’ and at what price?

And then last week, I saw the cover of Fortune magazine and heard the debate over the photo that was used: a very NOT pregnant Marissa Mayer. That actually doesn’t bother me. That Ms. Mayer does not want to be the poster child for pregnant executives, that she does not want a cover photo of her pregnant self on an international magazine, I can fully accept. She is not a pregnant CEO – she is a CEO who happened to have had a baby just this week.

And that is where I am again bothered. The discussion, along with the magazine cover, was that she would be returning to work in 1-2 weeks’ time. Really? What kind of message does that send? I believe women CAN have it all – maybe not at 100%, but certainly at a level that can exceed expectations. However, they need to do it AS women and not as women trying to fill a man’s shoes.

Men tend to return to work after 1-2 weeks paternity leave, but they did not deliver a baby. Their bodies have not been through the wringer. I want women to know and believe that they do not have to cut short a leave that is in the best interest of their personal well-being and that of their newborn. I fear the feedback that comes on the heels of the decision of the CEO of Yahoo!: well why do YOU need that much time off if the head of a Fortune 500 company can bounce back so quickly? Why can’t all women come right back to work?

Let me be clear, I don’t question Ms. Mayer’s parenting choices. Only she can be responsible for the choices and sacrifices she makes. However, the fact is that no one remembers the first 1-2 weeks after they have given birth. Your body is recovering, your emotions are out of whack, and your responsibilities have completely changed and that alone should buy you the privilege to stay home and heal. I don’t care how much money and help you have – you are not your best self. But more importantly, those days with your child are irreplaceable. The best help in the world cannot facilitate the bond between a newborn and their mother. Nations around the world recognize this and offer months, even up to a year with a child for a new mother – without penalty.

I do question what this example has done for the next generation of women that want to be powerful in the workplace and also great moms. I’ll continue to noodle…

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3 Responses to “Marissa Mayer…Hmmmm”

  1. Mary Hayes says:

    Excellent article. Thank you so much for that. I agree with you 100% and hope that Mayer’s decision does not send the wrong message to this generation’s new mothers, mothers-to-be, and companies. I feel so fortunate to have had four months of maternity leave with both of my children—an opportunity that I would have never passed up.

    Women executives—or working women in general—need roles models who are going to not only show them that they can have it all, but that they also deserve certain rights. As mothers and caregivers, it is imperative that we are allowed time to heal and bond with our children, so we can be the strong, stable, and loving role models they need to become the next generation of successful, compassionate, and well-rounded working women and men.

  2. Aryn Kennedy says:

    Today is my first day back after 12 weeks of leave and there is no way I could have come back at two weeks. At two weeks, walking was still a challenge. I don’t know how any woman could run a corporation at that point. Even last week I wasn’t ready to return to work! I am so grateful that I was able to take that time with my baby, completely undisturbed by my office. I’m also very fortunate to live in a state that offers 12 weeks of partially paid leave.

    I wish we had a culture that permitted more women to do this, and that supported childbirth in general. There is something wrong with our culture that we expect women to return to work two, four, or even six weeks after having a baby and be fully functioning. We need more women at higher levels of power that push corporations and government to provide more support for the needs of new mothers and their babies, not touting their short leaves.


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