The Controversial Maternity Leaves of Marissa Mayer
Yahoo’s CEO Marissa Mayer plans to take limited time away after giving birth to her twins. She’s a high-powered businesswoman, and she’s done this before. (This is her second pregnancy, and she took just two weeks off last time.) Is she a heroine, someone we should all look up to – or is she part of the problem?
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Marissa Mayer, Role Model
Mayer took over leadership of Yahoo at a tough time in the company’s history, after paying in her dues as Google’s first female engineer and 20th hire. During her tenure at Google, she developed some of the company’s most important products, including Google Maps, Google News, and Gmail. In her first two years at Google, she reportedly worked 100-hour weeks, sleeping only four hours a night.
In short, she’s earned her success. She’s a powerful example of a woman who has made it to the top in the tech world, against all odds. With her brave example, and stellar work history, she has obviously worked hard to get where she’s at. She makes it look easy, and she makes us all believe that perhaps we too can have it all.
Marissa Mayer, Sign of the Times
Mayer’s decision to take as little as two weeks off gives her one thing in common with the average working mom, even if it’s not something we should be proud of: according to a report from In These Times, nearly a quarter of working women in the US return to work within two weeks of giving birth.
Of course, Mayer’s situation is different from that of a mom cobbling together unpaid leave and short-term disability. Yahoo employees enjoy eight weeks of paid parental leave, with eight additional weeks for mothers; even though Mayer won’t be taking advantage of the policy, she’ll still be able to bring her twins in to work with her, to the nursery next to her office.
In the End, Should Any Woman Have to Represent All Women?
There’s also one other important point we have to see: She’s Yahoo.
We can’t see her as all-role-model/heroine. Instead, see her as a successful executive, who is paid to do a job. She’s going to do whatever makes the most sense for the company, whether it’s extending the leave for other parents at Yahoo to eight weeks, or banning telecommuting. Her next decision could be controversial, depending on what she sees is best for the company. She’s not going to do it just because it’s right for women or parents. But that’s Mayer.
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