New Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer Is Pregnant: Should You Hate Her?

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Marissa MayerPeople have a lot of opinions about money.

In our “Money Mic” series, we hand over the podium to someone with a strong opinion on a financial topic. These are their views, not ours, but we welcome your responses.

Today, mom Amy Keyishian shares her reaction to the news that Google’s Marissa Mayer has been appointed CEO of Yahoo! in the same week she announced her first pregnancy.

I’m not going to pretend I could do what Marissa Mayer is doing.

She graduated from Stanford with not one but two degrees in computer science (with honors), joined Google in its earliest days and is at the top of her profession.

Me? I spent an hour looking at up-dos on Pinterest when I was supposed to be writing this piece.

That’s why, at 37, she was just appointed the new CEO of Yahoo!, and I’m where I am, and we are two different people who make different choices. That message is getting totally lost in the noise over her new job … and the fact that she’s pregnant.

Mayer will be the 20th current female CEO of a Fortune 500 company; 20 women out of 500 total is only 4%. In addition to chatter around her appointment, much of the buzz has centered around her announcement she that plans to only take a few weeks’ maternity leave—three specifically—and will work throughout that time.

What Everyone’s Whining About

Mayer’s getting it from both sides. Sexist online thugs are whining that she only got the job because Yahoo! needed the publicity. That’s expected, nothing new, we all deal with it. Le yawn.

Others say she’s destined to fail at her job of turning around the sinking ship that may or may not be Yahoo!, and that having a baby now makes her especially destined to fail.

But what irks me the most is that she is also getting it from “our” side. Ye Olde Mommy Wars are triggered again. I’m as boob-centric as the next activist, but I snapped at a friend of mine who complained about feeling “conflicted” on Mayer’s decision to go right back to work after having her kid.

My friend’s concern was that this set a bad precedent, would be bad for the women’s movement, that it was worrisome that a woman would feel the need to take so little maternity leave and work throughout it all.

Well, you know what sets a worse precedent? Assuming that Mayer’s going to fail, and that this one choice of hers is what’s going to change—or not change—attitudes toward pregnant women in the workplace.

All this back-fence nattering I’m hearing (“She’s in for a rude awakening! She’s gonna regret this! Why’s she even having kids?”) makes me so ashamed. For feminists, for women, for the human race.

This is just one more case of “You cry-it-out, I co-sleep. You nurse on demand, I supplement with formula. You give birth in your tub at home with a midwife, I head to the hospital and demand an epidural.” Let’s call the whole thing off.

My Views Are Colored by My Own Bad Experience

When I was pregnant the first time, I was a copywriter at the worst company ever, which discontinued its work-from-home policy because the new leadership wanted more “face time.” As I had progressively more troubling symptoms related to my pregnancy, I went to my boss with a note from my doctor saying I needed to work from home. She shook her head. “They won’t go for it.”

A friend who was an employment lawyer told me, “This is what you’re due, legally.”

“But that’s going to cost the company a lot,” I told him, because apparently I’m a corporate enabler.

“If they can’t afford to give you what you’re legally allowed to have,” he said, “then they don’t have a good business model and your pregnancy is the least of their problems.”

But I didn’t grow a backbone, and I kept pushing myself beyond my limits, crying each morning before I left the house, and finally went into labor ten weeks early and spent six weeks in the NICU with a preemie (who is now fine, thank God).

Now. Is that going to happen to Marissa Mayer?

No, it is not, because she’s a CEO and can give herself work-from-home days if she needs to. She can hire a nanny, a nurse, a courier, a cook. She can set her company policy so that infants are allowed in the workplace (which has benefits like higher morale in the office!). Her hot-ass husband is a venture capitalist with a flexible schedule who can take the kid to doctor appointments and whatnot.

You know who’s not a CEO? Almost everyone else. Marissa Mayer is an outlier, and while her actions may make splashy headlines, her situation doesn’t apply to the rest of us.

There’s a Serious Issue Hidden Under These Piles of Snottiness

If you think being forced to go back to work after two weeks is inhuman, stop making it Mayer’s problem and open your eyes to the millions of women who don’t have a choice. The USA is the only industrialized country without a system for state-paid maternity leave.

Things have improved immensely since the early ‘70s for college-educated women like me: In 1971, 27% of working women with B.A.s were able to take paid maternity leave; by 2006, that figure was 66%.

For women whose education topped out at high school, though, 16% had paid maternity leave in 1971. And these days? Why, would you look at that: The number hasn’t improved at all.

The vast majority of women going back to work after two weeks have nothing in common with Marissa Mayer. They’re dragging their weary butts back to work, and wrapping up their boobs because there’s no place to pump at work. They’re getting paid by the hour.

Or they’re military women, like Robyn Roche-Paull, the author of “Breastfeeding in Combat Boots,” who went back to work after six weeks because it was required. When her son wouldn’t take a bottle, she co-slept with him so he could nurse all night and sleep all day while she was at work.

That’s really, really hard to do, and she did it, because she’s a warrior—not the military kind, the mommy kind.

Every mom is a warrior in one way or another. I was a warrior in the NICU. Another mom might be a warrior because she found the resources her special-needs son requires, or just because she found motherhood radically different from what she expected and manages to stay emotionally afloat anyway.

We’re all in this together.

If you care so much about Mayer that you question her choices, then stop gossiping and mobilize to change things for all women. Her choice to take a huge job when she’s pregnant isn’t going to hurt you, or your daughters, or women in general.

If an employer whines that a pregnant woman should come right back to work because Marissa Mayer did, then that woman should be smarter and stronger than I was and advocate for herself. If that woman is you, I hope you have other strong women in your life to lean on. If that woman is your friend, I hope you support her.

 

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  • RobD

    So, let’s remove all the public controversy from this issue.  Let’s leave the decision regarding what’s appropriate between the woman, her family, and her employer (in Mayer’s case, I would guess the BOD) and leave it out of the government’s hands.  In the end, laws that force companies to run inefficiently are bad for everyone.

  • http://twitter.com/susanmbaker susanmbaker

    I think its despicable that we don’t honor family more in this culture…there is a lot of lip service, but VERY LITTLE action as you point out here…thanks for making it so clear…

    my heart breaks for you that you allowed them to force you to work and went into premature labor because of it…labor laws (including maternity laws) NEED to change here…why are we the only western nation that fails to see this over and over again?

  • Dst87gn

    Great article ! I support the new CEO and whatever she chooses to do that is best for her & her family. Her baby will be well taken care of & that’s all that matters.

  • Tinga100

    Fantastic article, beautifully written.

  • http://twitter.com/CharmCalamaris Charmin Calamaris

    It’s silly for anyone – man or woman – to hate someone because of their success. If anything, we should look to Marissa Mayer as someone who can use her position to bring attention to the issues that working mothers face.It boils down to choices. It doesn’t matter what Mayer – or any other Mom chooses, but rather that she HAS the choice to make a career decision that best meets her own values, goals and priorities.

  • Abentzlin

    I think one of the most important things we can do to support our fellow women and moms is to support their choices simply because they are their choices, regardless of what we ourselves would do. Whether you go back to work 2 weeks or 2 years after becoming a mother is your choice, and women need to band together to demand that either decision and every one on the spectrum in between be respected. Only then will workplace policies change across the board. There is no magic bullet solution to maternity leave policy and if we don’t support a range of options, we limit ourselves to having a say at all. 

  • achill88

    What’s all the fuss about? CEO or not, I don’t find her decision particularly influential. I’m already a big fan of hers since I’m a woman in the high tech industry too, but I’d never choose what to do based on what she did. If her choice doesn’t even sway the decisions of others then why do we care? 

    If we learn anything from this whole ruckus and all the other millions before it it’s that no one else gives a damn about other people’s choices with their children when it comes time to form their own.

    So as for me, I’m just going to sit back and wish her a very heartfelt congratulations and be done with it!

  • Rkirkendall

    I love this!  Who are we to judge anyway?  We’re all just trying to make our way in this world.  Why can’t we just help each other out.

  • One Feminist Point of View

    There is a divide in feminism today. Naturalization of
    motherhood verses the rest of women’s issues. Someone commented below, “Why did
    she get pregnant in the first place? Why take on this job? Does she not take
    her Mother role seriously? Do NOT give me this bs that she has the ability to
    work from home, flexible hours, her nannies. NOTHING in life compares to the
    love of a Mother.” The other side of this argument is women are still making
    less than men in the same job and suffering from discrimination every day. The justification
    for this is women are taking more time off work to child rear. We are opting
    out of more stressful jobs to rear children. Furthermore, we are expected to do
    so! Should we sacrifice our place in society for motherhood? (and vise versa?) Why is it so hard
    to accept that motherhood and a woman’s identity can co-exist in any mix that
    woman sees fit?

    Something tells me that Marissa’s future child is a lucky
    one with a CEO for a mother and a venture capitalist as a father. Good luck to
    Marissa – we need more women like her.

  • http://www.deepskysedona.com/ hedron

    It’s extremely heart-wrenchingly difficult to part from one’s baby soon after birth, mostly due to the increase of wildly ferocious hormones. If Marissa decides to take her baby to work and have her nearby with a nanny, this is a great option. Babies bring in abundance and beauty to the life. Her work can only succeed. When the work force learns to honor the birthing cycle, women will be in a position to effect change and reverse economic downfalls like the one we are in now. 

  • Kahart723

    Well, this article didn’t go where I was expecting it to initially, but I just wanted to say I love it. I’m not near the point of having kids yet – but I want to and know that I’m not in a situation to do anything different than continue my career and help support my eventual family. I also don’t have immediate family nearby to help me when the time comes or enough income for a paid support network. I find myself frequently thinking about the women in my workplace who get pregnant and how tough it must be for them – and worrying about how it will be for me. Thanks for bringing this issue to the forefront and recognizing that Marissa’s situation is unique.

  • Nacoja1985

    I am really grateful to see this article. As a young woman soon to be venturing into the real world after college, I find it discomforting to know how we are still viewed in the workplace, our personal life, and as humans; period.

    As woman we need to stop the back biting and immature whining at another woman’s determination and thus, yielded success. Yes, its true we all have to sacrifice and all decisions come with consequences. Each positive milestone a woman makes benefits us all in the long run and in the same way each negative comment takes away from progress.

    So choose wisely!

  • Barbara

    I am not a CEO. I work for a smallish family business as their in-house accountant. “Back in the day” (1997 specifically), I gave birth to my third child. The following week, I moved my family (husband, young daughter, toddler son and new baby girl) into my parents’ house where I could literally be across the driveway from the office.  My sister ran the family “day care” in the house. I could visit with and breastfeed my baby girl anytime we needed, she was getting the care she deserved and I could work to help support my growing family.

    We moms do what we can, what we must do and what is good for our families whether we are working in the workforce or at home, plain and simple.

    FYI: With my first born daughter, I took off the full 6 weeks and my son 2 weeks. Every person, family & situation is different. There is no “magic answer”.

  • A Yahoo

    Great article. :)

  • Bcalnyc

    Everyone is colored by their own experiences (I had one job that gave me 5, count ‘em, 5 days of leave when I had my middle son-I’m a BIG supporter of maternity leave) but the reality is that what the women’s movement fought for is choices. 
    This women chose an ambitious work-centered life.  In keeping with that, she expects to stay in touch with work and not be physically away too long (lest she is seen an replaceable, I’m sure). 
    She may feel differently after having a child and become all June Cleaver (doubt it tho’). 
    She may choose to be firm about her family time (turn the smart phone off!) as another well known silicon valley female exec has (can’t remember her name right now but apparently she leaves at quittin’ time to be home with family). 
    She may choose to be more of a traditional dad type who is a little less hands on.  We don’t know yet.
    We DO know that her job will afford her more flexibility to make those choices (she may have the baby brought in mid-day to nurse, who’s gonna tell her “no”?)  She may work more from home.
    If only everyone had that flexibility.  If only everyone had those choices.
    THAT’S what we should be arguing about.  Why does this country so dislike children that it insists that our best and our brightest either not have them or be absentee parents?  Why do we spend money on tax cuts rather than schools? Why do we cut funding for quality childcare then tell poor women they have to work?  What’s WRONG with us and how do we fix it?

  • guest

    Stil, despite FEMLA and the ability to be off for 12 weeks after having a baby, in most places, if you don’t have sick and/or vacation time to cover 12 weeks, you don’t get paid, and maybe don’t even get approved for 12 weeks.  When I had my kids in the 80′s, you got six weeks; eight weeks if you had a C-Cection.  Unfortunately, despite the Women’s Movement, Thing have not improved much for the average woman.  the best thing Marissa could do, is make sure that her employees have good maternity benefits. 

  • guest

    Stil, despite FEMLA and the ability to be off for 12 weeks after having a baby, in most places, if you don’t have sick and/or vacation time to cover 12 weeks, you don’t get paid, and maybe don’t even get approved for 12 weeks.  When I had my kids in the 80′s, you got six weeks; eight weeks if you had a C-Cection.  Unfortunately, despite the Women’s Movement, Thing have not improved much for the average woman.  the best thing Marissa could do, is make sure that her employees have good maternity benefits. 

  • Mmmolter

    I applaud her appointment. She has the power to make changes for the good of women in her workplace. I also applaud that she is not intimidated by choices between family and career goals.It is a shame that this country spouts freedoms for individuals, including women, but it is the socialist countries of the world that offer perqs to their female employees.

  • RLBGreer

    After working from home a mere 20% of my 4 week maternity leave with a semi absent traveling 180+ day a year husband and no family near by to help she is helping to kill us all! This us what companies are coming to expect and whats wrote is our health suffers greatly for it! I speak from twice over experience that lead me to have my children more than 4 years apart because I just couldn’t do it. This behaivor hurts us all.

  • NYCPrep

    This scares me.  I am a newlywed and am not planning on starting a family anytime soon, but I do eventually plan to.  I understand having to work some if I owned my own company; however, if I am not the owner of the company then I don’t wish to be bothered by work demands while on maternity leave – especially if its an unpaid maternity leave!  Not to mention Maternity leave in the US is far shorter than other countries around the world.  I do think Marissa Mayer’s decision is personal to her, I just don’t want companies thinking that because she did it, all women need to be working during maternity leave.  Also, somebody please check in with her after she has her first child and see how it is going…  She probably has no clue!

  • Valduck17

    So much for “family values”.  To be honest, no “job”, none is more important than being a mother – and no job should attempt to force a competent worker, male or female, to choose between their paycheck, and being a good, stable parent.  I don’t understand why there is no male equivalent of “maternity leave” – as a woman, I find this disturbing.  What? Dads don’t lose sleep over their newborns?  They don’t want to spend time with their new child? Only misogynists – men and women, feel that Mayer’s “behavior” is in any way a detriment. Children are not a liability, not a burden to sacrifice your livelihood for – it is very much the other way around. 

    • Sheila

      Actually there is maternity leave for men.  I worked with a guy once whose wife was a teacher.  Their baby was born during the summer so when she went back to teaching he took time off to stay at home.  My brother did the same thing under a California law where you are allowed to take time off up to the child’s first birthday so he used it during the time they were moving.  I can’t remember how long it was, but it was pretty significant – maybe 6 weeks.

  • Alicia Pasion

    People probably just need to stand up for themselves as the author of this article suggests. I’m pregnant with my first and while I’m not the CEO of our company, there are duties that I perform which nobody else can pick up while I’m out. So, my company has agreed to allow me to work from home to complete those tasks and to couple that with my FMLE. With all this taken into consideration I will be able to take nearly 3 months out of the office. And when I return, we’ve already determined how pumping breast milk in the office will work and that my work schedule will be flexible.

    I feel that I am an asset to my company and that is why they will work with me. Do they have to be as flexible as they are? NO! They could simply force me to train somebody else and be back in the office 6 weeks later, but they value my contributions.

    Also, anybody who is expecting should know that if you sign up for Short Term Disability insurance, before you become pregnant, they pay you for 6 weeks (8, if you have a C-section) of disability leave. And this can be taken in addition to your 12 weeks of FMLE.

  • Wyominggirl357

    why is this even an issue? Women have kids and careers all the time now. They are both accomplishments individually or together. If you let one slide to do the other, consider only doing one. Stop working to have the kid or tough it out and don’t let your job slide. If you are a career women you made the choice of that path now stand behind your decision. We have to stop using the excuses that we are women and that we need all this extra crap just because of it. You made decisions about your career and kids now deal with it. It is one of life’s tough decisions. Men can choose to ignore the option of a family and not procreate and have a great career or they can choose to make family a big part of their life and their career slips a little. If we want equality then we need to step up the level of the world and not bring it down to us.

  • Mikilovebug

    Thank you for this article. While I don’t have children yet, I do think about my options should I decide to do so. It’s hard enough on each woman making her decisions. As a community of women we shouldn’t add to that stress and stick together. Great article!

  • Jceny

    I feel bad for her that she needs to report back to work immediately to “save face” and prove herself as a woman and that she is able to do this job. On the other hand, I’d head back to MY office after 3 weeks if I have a larger than life paycheck, a nanny, and could bring my baby to work too–let’s not kid ourselves here, she isn’t going back to  cubicle and sticking her newborn into a daycare with 30 other sick kids on the other side of town and working for 50k like most of “us”.