An honest take on life and parenthood

The New CEO of Yahoo! is pregnant – and my stomach is twisting

on July 17, 2012

Today I read that Marissa Mayer, formerly of Google, is the new CEO of Yahoo! She is also pregnant with her first child, a baby boy. This news was all over Facebook and the Internet this morning. All of the reactions that I read were overwhelmingly positive and hopeful about real changes for working women.

The Huffington Post reports:

“The former Google VP told Fortune’s Patricia Sellers that Yahoo! executives knew about her pregnancy last month and “showed their evolved thinking” in hiring her anyway. The 37-year-old, who is married to Data Collective co-managing partner Zachary Bogue, is due in October and told Sellers she plans to take just “a few weeks” of working maternity leave.” (Marissa Mayer Pregnant, Huffington Post, 7/17/12)

A few weeks of working maternity leave? Are you freaking kidding me? You’re not having a puppy. You’re having a BABY. A baby who will need you more than you could ever imagine anyone needing you. And you are going to have this child just as you are becoming CEO of a Fortune 500 Tech company that has experienced its own share of dramatic highs and lows.

Excuse me, but am I the only one who sees a terrible disconnect and conflicting set of choices?

I can’t help but feel angry at the lack of comprehension here. Not just at Ms. Mayer, but at all of these people who think this is such a fabulous move on her part and an evolution in the way that major companies hire CEO’s.

From an intellectual, feminist point of view, yes, I am proud that she threw her hat into the ring and came out as the board’s choice. I’m sure there was heavy competition from male candidates as well as female candidates with no children or grown children.  She probably is the best choice from a quality perspective, and I applaud the board of Yahoo! for being so progressive and hiring her, even when they knew she was pregnant.

But let’s be honest here. With the exception of one female board member (motherhood status undetermined), all of the Yahoo! board members are male and have never given birth or cared for an infant. That’s what their wives did. They may have become senior executives when their children were born, and they did it. Why can’t Ms. Mayer? Look at her – she’s a superstar! And she obviously assured them she could do it. So they gave her the job, and everyone is congratulating themselves.

We women have been asking for this kind of equal consideration forever, and look – we got it!

But be careful what you wish for. Now that I am a mother, I just do not see how this is going to work, unless Ms. Mayer outsources motherhood and misses out on critical time with her son in his first year of life. Or she just doesn’t live up to the expectations that Yahoo! has of her, and she either admits defeat and leaves or is forced to leave.

I’m sorry to be so pessimistic here, but that first year as a new mother is so hard, and an infant is very demanding. And although I have never been a CEO, I have yet to hear of a CEO that works a manageable schedule, especially for a publicly traded company which has seen its share of troubles. CEO’s work hard, and the good ones work really hard.

By all accounts of what I have read about Ms. Mayer, I know her type well. She is super bright, very accomplished, driven, and incredibly ambitious. (As a completely fun and tangential side note, one of my friends was offered to be set up with her on a blind date way back when she was single. He didn’t do it).

Honestly, I don’t blame her for putting herself in the running for CEO of Yahoo!  The words, ”I can’t,” are just not part of your overachiever vocabulary, especially in a place like Silicon Valley, and especially coming from one of Google’s very first hires. When I was in business school, we women just assumed that we, too, would be mistresses of the universe along with our male classmates. Why wouldn’t we? And why wouldn’t Ms. Mayer? So I understand why she believes she can pull this off.

And as I have said in a previous blog post, in my pre-mommy days, I never thought there would be serious challenges in having a high-powered career and having a child. I know differently now. The choices are hard, and you are the only person who can make them. And you have to make a calculation on who and what is the most important to you, and hope that you made the right choice.

When Ms. Mayer was approached for this position, she probably thought of it as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Perhaps she felt that if she turned down this opportunity, she might not get another. And she might have been right.

But let us not forget that a child is coming into the world, and that child will need to be cared for around the clock. A baby does not function on Silicon Valley time, or adjust its schedule to Wall Street’s earnings forecast demands. The board and shareholders are not going to care if your child has such a terrible cold that he can barely breathe, or that he is so colicky that your nerves are frayed and you are lightheaded from sleep deprivation. It’s all about results, and they won’t want to hear the backstory of your challenges with motherhood. Keep in mind, too, that I am assuming the best of outcomes, with a healthy baby and an uneventful delivery.

Ms. Mayer is going to have to make some very awful choices come October and after. She is wealthy enough to hire lots of help. She will need it. And she is probably telling herself that if she works smart, hires a strong management team, and has good help at home, she can do this.

Personally, I would not wish this kind of pressure on my worst enemy.

I wish her the best. But most of all, I hope that her little son doesn’t miss his mommy too much.

2 responses to “The New CEO of Yahoo! is pregnant – and my stomach is twisting

  1. Mike says:

    Honestly…at her level and with her street cred…she could outsource her job as CEO and that is likely the case. Keep a close eye on her “right-hand-(gender appropriate man/woman)”. That person will EARN their pay and hopefully will be well compensated. All while Marissa puts a pretty, well-recognized face on Yahoo!


  2. Anustup says:

    Would like to apply for baby-sitter role in the Mayers household


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