Silicon Valley is abuzz this week with the news that not only was Google Vice President Marissa Mayer tapped to be Yahoo!’s new CEO, but she revealed the same day that she is expecting. She’s definitely not the first female CEO nor the first CEO to be a mother, but she’s likely the first to take on the top job 6 months pregnant!
There are so many facets to this story.
Yahoo! has been trying to find its way for several years and abruptly fired its last 2 CEOs. Marissa Mayer has been enormously successful at Google – a top competitor. What a coup for Yahoo!, who closed the deal quickly. Mayer reports she got the initial phone call just 4 weeks ago!
Mayer has said that she informed the Yahoo! board of her pregnancy before they extended her an offer, but the board and shareholders need not fear because she said “My maternity leave will be a few weeks long and I’ll work throughout it.”
The Valley has been resounding with applause and boos. A young (37 years old) woman heading a $20 billion technology company! A board progressive enough to hire a pregnant woman into the company’s top position! A woman planning to attain the holy grail of “having it all!” A woman rebuffing the parental leave that women (and men) worked for many years to put into law.
I had my first daughter when I was 34 years old and Marketing Director for a small technology company. Through a combination of medical disability stipend, creative use of accrued vacation hours, and paid work from home I stretched my maternity leave to 3 months. No amount of planning could have prepared me for the complete infatuation I felt for my daughter the moment she was born. Nor for the sheer exhaustion of caring for an infant, doing laundry, shopping, cooking, house cleaning, and recuperating from a C-section. (Before you ask, my typically participative husband worked in the retail industry at the time and it was the holiday season. I was fairly solo.) When my scheduled weeks of work from home kicked in, it was near impossible for me to squeeze in the time, much less the interest, for work.
Fast forward 3 years, we were ready to have another child, but at the same time my company was preparing to be sold and I knew I’d be looking for another job. My husband and I felt, right or wrong, that it would be too risky to seek new employment while pregnant. Once I landed a new job, we believed I needed to put in some time to establish my reputation before taking maternity leave. At 38 I found I could not get pregnant again, and for the next 5 years I flat-lined my career, not volunteering for choice assignments or projects that involved travel. I needed the flexibility to go in late, take a long lunch, or leave early to endure the myriad blood draws, ultrasounds, injections, and other procedures that were part of our IVF journey. Ultimately I became pregnant with twins – who were born prematurely six states away from home.
Now, almost ten years later, I’m still struggling to get my career back on track. Moving forward in my career means more time at work and less time with family. I’ve grudgingly come to the conclusion that at this time the trade off is not worth it for me.
So how do I feel about the Marissa Mayer news? A little bit jealous, certainly. Is she a role model for young women? I don’t know about that. There’s no doubt Mayer has the means to hire household help. And as the boss she has much greater ability to leave the office at 5:30pm than do most working moms. Is she single-handedly undoing the hard-won gains that allow women to take maternity leave without fear of losing their jobs? I doubt it. Marissa Mayer is a unique, ambitious, successful, and lucky individual.
Hiring her was a fantastic move on Yahoo!’s part and I hope she’ll be wildly successful. It will be fun to watch her “have it all.”image: Jumping girl by @mattox via stock.xchng