Can the critics just stop?! Yahoo's CEO, Marissa Mayer, is pregnant with twin girls and planning to take just two weeks off after she gives birth. She should be applauded for combining business leadership with family life, not blasted.
Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer had to know that whatever length of maternity leave she'd take after giving birth to twin girls would be the subject of massive controversy. When she took the reigns at Yahoo in July 2012, she was already six months pregnant with her son, Macallister Bogue, now 3, and people were shocked when she announced at that time to take only two weeks of maternity. Now she's doing it again and she's being denounced as a bad role model because she could put other women under pressure to return to work too quickly post-baby birth!
This is just so wrong! Let's not forget that there are only 24 female CEOs in the Fortune 500 companies -- an infinitesimal number -- AND she's trying to be a great CEO and a great mom. Cut her some slack!
Despite Mayer's best and very practical intentions her critics are lambasting her for setting a work commitment bar that's impossible for most other women to achieve. She's accused of inadvertently putting pressure on other pregnant working women to also only take two weeks off.
"Mayer's insistence that she will get back to work so quickly sets a bad precedent for Yahoo's lower-level employees, mothers and fathers, who do not have the job flexibility and cannot afford the extensive social support and backup systems that Mayer and her husband will be able to construct," CNN blogger Stephanie Coontz insists.
"It gives a false expectation of how a mom should balance work and life, "points out mom of one Shaquanda Spivey, 36, who is expecting her second child. "I don't want to worry about work two weeks after I give birth. I want to make sure that my baby is healthy." Another mother, Karen Tayor Bass, 48, fears that Marissa is setting a terrifying precedent for other women. "It's scary. You're not going to take the full, max maternity leave, because you want to be competitive, you want to be reliable, and if your boss takes limited time, you feel guilt-ridden if you don't do the same."
Joan Williams shares that fear -- asserting that Marissa is setting an example that puts pressure on other working moms: "The underlying work culture sends the message that if you're really committed, you're here all the time," explains Williams, the director of the Center For WorkLife Law at the University of California's Hastings College of Law.
While I agree that Mayer is setting a bar for herself that is unrealistic and undesirable for most women -- most women don't feel well enough to return to work two weeks after giving birth and most don't want to -- she shouldn't be criticized for doing what she has decided is her best solution..
She wants to be with her baby girls as well to bond and probably breastfeed but she's also totally aware of the needs of her own 11,400 employees and her $45 billion company. She's tried to come up with her best solution to be a good mother and a good CEO. I'm sure that Marissa fully understands that her situation as a CEO company, earning $42 million a year, is not the same as most moms in America. And it's not the same as her employees, either, including her very senior female employees. She's not going to expect them to do as she plans to do.
Marissa Mayer Shouldn't Be Criticized For Her Work/Life Decisions
In fact, Mayer has been sympathetic to the needs of her employees and she doubled Yahoo's paid maternity leave from eight to sixteen weeks in 2012, even though she stuck to a two-week leave after giving birth to Macallister in 2012. Mayer, 40, is in a very unique position. She is trying to balance her personal and family needs with her immense responsibilities as a CEO. She should be applauded as a role model for women striving to achieve top leadership positions in the business world, while also having families.
It's not easy for any working mother in America, no matter what you earn or what position you're in. Only 13 percent of full time workers in the U.S. had access to paid family leave, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That's astounding! We are the only industrialized country in the world without a government policy of paid maternity leave. Now, Marissa's problem obviously isn't that she needs to work those weeks just to pay bills, and can't afford to take time off after having a baby like many American women.
But she still is faced with trying to juggle. No matter what your means are, you can't turn off your maternal emotions. Her solution is to return to work quickly but no doubt to bring her twin baby girls along. She constructed a nursery next to her office for her older son. Wouldn't it be great if more women and men could support her decision instead of slamming her for setting an unrealistic standard for other women?
Her personal decision doesn't mean that millions of other women will be forced to follow in her footsteps. Instead, let's hope that her example pushes other companies to work out more and various solutions for expectant moms and dads. Definitely more and longer paid leaves. And yes, if parents want to bring their newborns to work after a short leave, like Marissa, let's urge companies to find ways to make that possible, too!
-- Bonnie Fuller