Marissa Mayer: Pregnant, Powerful and Paving the Way for Women

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This is my third installment of what I’ll call my “Moms and the Workplace” series.  I didn’t intend for it to be a series, but Marissa Mayer being hired as the new CEO of Yahoo really helped me out, so I thought I would tie it all together and figure out how I feel about it in the process.

You’ve no doubt heard that Marissa Mayer was just hired as the CEO of Yahoo and that she is six months pregnant.  When I first heard that I said to myself, that woman is a rock star!  I love her!  She’s my new hero!  She is my age (which is super young), pregnant with her first child, and she is heading up a Fortune 500 company.  My next thought was, where did I go wrong?  Ok, I know its not about me; so back to her, she was employee no. 20 at Google, their first female engineer and is a self-proclaimed geek.  

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post called Career and Family: Do You Have It All?  The main point being, if you don’t, it’s not your fault.  There are factors at play in the workplace that make it extremely difficult for women to be able to feel as though they are giving everything they’ve got to their jobs and everything they’ve got to their families.  Citing Anne-Marie Slaughter’s article in The Atlantic, more women need to be in leadership roles for real change to occur. 

Cue Marissa Mayer as head of Yahoo.  She rose through the ranks at Google where she was used to pulling at least one all-nighter a week.  Let me make that clear for you, an all-nighter AT WORK.  Where working 130 hours in a week is not unheard of.  WHAT the HELL?  There are 168 hours in a week!  “Well, if you’re strategic about when you shower and sleeping under your desk, it can be done,” she says.  Alright, I suppose.  So her work ethic is nothing like mine.  But I’m sure I can still aspire to be her, right? Or I can at least hope that she may be the one we were looking for for our real change?

Last week, I wrote a post called How Did Your Maternity (Parental) Leave Affect You?   I was comparing the differing maternity leaves in the US and Canada.  The US is one of four countries in the entire world that does not offer paid maternity leave (the others are Liberia, Papua New Guinea, and Swaziland).  Canada has a year of job protected leave, paid at a max of $485/week which is drawn from an individual’s contribution (tax) to employment insurance.  Awesome!  

Now, with Mayer as the pregnant head of a Fortune 500 company, maybe this is the time for someone to push for a paid leave or perhaps a leave that is longer than six weeks? Because at six weeks post-partum with my first child, I will fully admit that I was a sobbing mess on the floor.  But then Mayer said, “Don’t worry Yahoo board, I’ll be working during my maternal leave and only take a couple of weeks off.”  Aw, boooo, my hero just made me sad.  Sad because now I feel inadequate.

Here is where all of my hypotheticals meet with reality.  Of course she can’t take time off for maternity leave she’s supposed to be turning around a company.  She also, by the sounds of it, is somewhat super human.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t have any interest in working 130 hours a week.  And after more consideration, I can’t imagine the head of a company getting that far without being super human.  So it has me thinking that it really isn’t the leaders of companies that we need to be relying on here.  It’s going to have to be up to you and me.  We’re the ones that are going to have to break the old rules and create new ones that allow for more workplace flexibility.  Show everyone that yes, we have a family and we are also extremely productive and highly valued employees.

In the end, I still think Marissa Mayer is a rock star, and I can’t help but feel proud of her for her new role.  I feel like her accomplishing such a big promotion while six months pregnant gives a lot of super women out there a fighting chance at doing the same.

So go out there and kill it Marissa Mayer!  If you don’t, to paraphrase Melinda Henneberger from the Post, I hope, for the sake of the rest of us, they don’t blame it on the baby.

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