Mayer told Yahoo directors shortly after being contacted by headhunters for the top job that she was pregnant. They “showed their evolved thinking” in not once asking her about it.
In the UK and much of Europe, “evolution” on the matter in general means a push towards shared parental leave and more time off. So, although her appointment is fantastic news for many reasons (which I’ll come to later) it conveniently shows the gulf between the US and much of Europe when it comes to the rights of working parents. Even our own, in some ways neanderthal government, has posited opening up the right to a year’s parental leave to both men and women equally. Yet in the US, where women have the right only to 12 weeks’ unpaid leave, progress is often perceived as a woman giving birth while signing off on an acquisition and sacking a few hundred staff members.
Martinson points out that, indeed, the whole issue of paid maternity, and paternity leave, is in many ways moot in Mayer’s case as she is “is already fabulously wealthy and able to pay for her own army of childcarers.”
But Martinson’s comments hint at why, in the US, paid parental leave is only grudgingly allotted and bears the reputation of a luxury, a privilege, a sign of weakness, something women should be oh-so-grateful to their employers for “granting.” Is it progress” for women to swing into supermom mode and leap into work clothes after spending 21 1/2 hours in labor and learning to get a newborn to latch on?
As many are saying, Mayer has her work cut out for her as Yahoo’s #1. The company has struggled mightily for years and seen a revolving door of CEOs; its chief executive cannot take time off. As a woman and a working mother, I wonder: What if American corporate culture actually took the needs of children, families, mothers, women who’ve recently given birth into consideration and revolved around building business in a way to foster executives’ (and, of course, workers’) lives, rather than being driven by profit margins? Having worked for years in male-dominated Silicon Valley, is Mayer unable to imagine ordering her life around anything but this culture’s demands?
I know those questions probably sound very laughable, are not what business is about and are beyond both the possible and the imaginable.
But then, in the not so distant past, a pregnant female engineer becoming CEO of a Fortune 500 Company probably sounded just as ridiculous and impossible, too.
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