Can Marissa Mayer Handle Both a Baby and Yahoo!?


By Cate Sevilla

'Marissa Mayer is leaving Google for Yahoo!' are words that no one in the tech world ever thought they would hear. 

To many, the now former VP of search products and user experience at Google  has made a ridiculous and shocking career move. So why exactly would Mayer leave Google for Yahoo!? The answer could be that she loves a challenge. Or that she thinks she can revolutionise the company. Who the hell knows, really. All I know is she got to interview Lady Gaga for Google and that's enough for me to be confused. Who is she going to interview for Yahoo!, Chris Kirkpatrick from NSYNC?

While the masses thought this story couldn't get any more shocking, Mayer then announced she's pregnant (Pregnant! With a baby!) making her the first ever pregnant CEO of a Fortune 500 company.

Mayer's pregnancy is reported to have "not been an issue" to the Yahoo! board during the hiring process, and she's said that she will only take "a few weeks" of working maternity leave. While I hope Mayer does take an adequate (and reasonable) amount of time off with her baby to, you know, bond and recover, I think this is huge move for women in tech. 

Unfortunately, many companies and managers still have a backwards attitude towards maternity leave and working mothers, and Yahoo! hiring a pregnant CEO is setting a fantastic, if not revolutionary example. Clearly, the Yahoo! board respected Mayer's credentials and experience enough to know that she would still be able to do her job properly as CEO of Yahoo! despite, you know, being a mother. Imagine that.

Obviously, having a baby is tough. Obviously, there are women, most notably Sheryl Sandberg, who manage to do a job like Mayer's next role, with children. And while there has been much talk over the difficulties women with children face in the tech start-up world - Marissa Mayer is hardly working at a start-up. And more to the point, even if she was taking on the role of CEO of a tech start-up - so what?

I've seen far too many tweets over the last day or so, criticising Mayer for her decision and saying that she won't be able to "focus" on her new role while being a new mother. However, it's posts like this from Sarah Lacy titled "Being a “Momtrepreneur” Is Hard. So Is Everything Else in the World. Let’s Move On." that give me hope that women will be able to see through the fearmongering and the judgment and just do what they feel is right.

Lacy eloquently and honestly wrote of her own personal experience raising a baby and a start-up at the same time, saying:

"... I feel an obligation to say one thing to women out there who like me put off having children or starting a company because they were terrified into thinking they can’t have it all. You can have it all. But there are two important caveats in that: You can’t have it all, all at once. For instance, I can’t travel the world anymore, but that’s ok, I did that for two years. More to the point: You have to decide what “it all” is to you."

Is choosing to 'take on' a new baby and a new company (regardless of its size or history) a challenge? Absolutely. Does it seem slightly crazy? Absolutely. But instead of pooh-poohing Mayer for taking on 'too much', how about we give her a high-five and a drink an unalcoholic beverage of her choice?

For those of us who want more high-profile, female CEOs in the tech world, how awesome is it that we now have a pregnant, high-profile, female CEO in the tech world? To me, this says PROGRESS rather than INSANITY.  And as Saray Lacy said, "Not everything works out in life or business, whether you have a baby or not. That doesn't’ mean you shouldn't try."

Marissa Mayer, I bow down and salute you. Congratulations on this new, exciting chapter of your life and your career.

Image via Giorgio Montersino's Flickr

POSTED IN: TECH
Tue, 17 Jul 2012 17:25 (GMT+01)
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