In Defense of Marissa Mayer

The mommy-bloggers have a new target! You would have thought that “back to school”, “fall fashion ideas for busy moms”, or something about “vaccinations” in the back to school spirit would have kept them busy for longer. But no, Miss Yahoo herself, Marissa Mayer, had to come along and announce she was prego with twins, on her own Tumblr. That alone would have led to a flood of blogs, since a working woman getting pregnant is apparently very newsworthy, but then Mayer went and announced she would only be taking two weeks of pregnancy leave. The internet went crazy. According to my Facebook feed, over 19.3k people are “talking” about this, RIGHT NOW.

yahoo marissa mayer pregnant

Here’s the thing, in case you aren’t following any of the 19k-plus people who are talking about this today. People are angry with Mayer for not being a “better example” on the topic of parental leave. “Yahoo has one of the most generous parental leave programs ever, yet this is the impossible example that the CEO sets??? How IRRESPONSIBLE” “What a missed opportunity to take a step forward for women everywhere!” “This is a giant step backwards in the striving for a work/family life balance!”

People. Seriously. A couple notes.

First – Can we stop with the whole “I totally respect her decision, but here all the reasons I think she is sxxx for doing what she did” sort of rhetoric. That is not respecting someone’s decision. Just like saying, “no offense, but I think you are boring and a pain to be around” is not being nice. So, mommy-bloggers dearest, cut it out. [sidenote – I fully understand that I may someday be a mommy-blogger, so, no offense…]

Second – The fact that we are making such a HUGE freaking deal about this pregnancy says more about how messed up our society is than the fact that she is working so much and taking so little leave. Since when do CEOs have a moral responsibility to the rest of the working world to be a shining example of how a personal life should look? They have a responsibility to run a company, that’s what they were selected for.

Here’s the thing, if Mayer wants to keep working, and wants to take minimal leave, that is her choice and hers alone. The fact that she is ABLE to do this because she can do things like pay a staff to help her out and have a nursery built next to her office, might not seem “fair”, but by golly, that’s her lot in life. She’s worked hard, had some good luck, and is in the position to be able to make those choices. Good for her. That doesn’t make her a bad mother, a bad example, or somehow okay for you to rip apart in your commentary.

Most people don’t have that choice, so Yahoo provides them more time to do it “the hard way”, on their own, without paid staff, for a few extra weeks. Fine. An issue would arise if there was explicit pressure for people to act like their CEO in all personal decisions, such as how much parental leave to take advantage of. (Obviously, this is the rub, people feel like her example is what is providing this very pressure, but I disagree.)

Parental leave is important, it’s a hot topic, and it’s controversial. I get it. But honestly, our reaction to Mayer’s decision is more of  “step backwards” than her decision itself. For example, the fact that this news story exists: According to News Everyday, Yahoo stocks fell 2% after Mayer’s pregnancy announcement. Not clear if the announcement CAUSED the decline, it is Yahoo, after all, but still…

The point is that this lady cannot win, and that is the problem. She will be criticized for her parenting, for her work life balance, for her hair, for her make up, for her fashion, for her pregnancy, for not being pregnant sooner, for her future pregnancy choices, IE if she decides to get pregnant a third time, or if she doesn’t. Can you imagine if she had chosen to not have kids at all? THAT dialogue IS being a woman in a high visibility position, and THAT dialogue is the problem.


Alissa Jean

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