Last Friday, amidst the morning shuffle of getting kids dressed and packed for school, I caught a clip on the news about new mom and Yahoo CEO, Marissa Mayer. I had to turn the volume up so high my neighbors could probably hear it, just to drown out the noise of my family. I’m glad I did because I was able to learn that Mayer had just landed the cover for Fortune magazine as one of their “50 Most Powerful Women.” Good for her, right?! No, the news was that she was catching flack for not posing pregnant on the cover. Right. Because she’s in the spotlight for being an extremely successful young executive who happened to just have a baby, she should automatically become an unofficial spokesperson for working mothers by letting this nine-month pregnancy wholly define who she is as a person and a professional. Makes total sense.
Now, I am one to talk, since I’ve had three children over the lifetime of my business, and this story just really rattles me. The wrath of these female critics is so completely the opposite of what should be happening right now! Instead of celebrating her big moments (brand new baby and the cover of Fortune in one week, whoa!), let’s take this person who’s broken through that glass ceiling, a woman being hired as CEO of a high tech company, and let’s ostracize her. Now I don’t hide the fact that I’m a mother, but it’s only one part of who I am, and it doesn’t have much bearing on the daily operations of my business. Most of my clients never even knew I was pregnant, let alone had a baby. Not because I was ashamed, but because it was irrelevant. Why shout it off the rooftops if I didn’t feel like it?
Oh, and Mayer plans to go back to work after a couple weeks? Shame on her! I could be wrong, but I think you’ll have a hard time finding a group of CEOs or business owners who can justify taking more than two weeks off for any reason. Obviously I don’t think that pregnant women should be discriminated against, and I agree with Mayer that employees (mothers and fathers) should get plenty of time off to enjoy this very special time with their newborn babies. But I would be shocked if the CEO of a large corporation took three months off to be a mother. Did I want three months to recuperate and bond with my babies? Sure. How much time was I able to take? Three weeks, max. While it’s one of the most gratifying moments in life, having a child does not release us from all other responsibilities in life, whether that is looking after younger siblings and maintaining a household, or running a business that represents many other people’s livelihoods. Life goes on, and we do our best.
There’s a great debate about whether or not women can “have it all,” personally and professionally. YES. They can. But there are sacrifices that must be made in order to really have it all. The fact that Marissa Mayer landed the Yahoo gig with a bun in the oven is amazing, in and of itself. The fact that at her level of success, she felt confident enough that she could both start a family and maintain a career is also great! The fact that crabby bloggers are criticizing her for not bearing all the the cover of Fortune Demi Moore-style is a disservice to her accomplishments and the great example that she’s already set for young women. Let’s be realistic and give Mayer the credit she deserves.