Yahoo! Hires Pregnant CEO--Big Advance or Big Risk?

Work-Life Balance on 07.18.12
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While it's not (or at least shouldn't be) unexpected that Yahoo! has named a new female CEO--Marissa Mayer (former Google VP and Google employee #20)-- what is rather shocking is that they've hired her at approximately six months pregnant (she's due sometime in October)! You and I both know that a woman is perfectly capable of being a CEO of a Fortune 500 company, but we also know that telling an employer--and especially a prospective employer--that you are pregnant is a particularly daunting task. And sadly, it's certainly nothing like a man telling a potential employer that his family is expecting a new baby. But my first reaction to this news is to be uber excited that maybe, just maybe, Melissa Mayer has broken down a wall that other women haven't quite yet (or else I wouldn't be writing this) and will pave the way for the rest of us. Women can do it all!

Progress in the Work Place

Mothers in the 21st century come in all shapes and sizes. It is no longer the norm that all women stay at home to raise their babies, and so it is not uncommon to meet one mother that works full time, another that works part time, and another that is a stay-at-home mom. And they all might be best friends. There is no doubt that the position of CEO of Yahoo! will come with an income that supports the ability to have a full-time nanny should Mayer choose that option, which one assumes she will, although there is no reason she couldn't put her child in a standard daycare center like many other mothers that work 40 or even 60 hours per week do.

The thing is that I am so excited that Mayer has been given this position not only as a woman, but as a pregnant woman. And I even completely understand her thinking that she will take a few weeks of working maternity leave (which doesn't really mean a break at all). It is possible to keep tabs on what's going on at work while having a newborn. I've done it, although not even remotely comparable (and I mean that in the most distant comparison possible) to the context in which she'll be doing it. But I'm still worried by what will come after she has the baby.

Under Pressure

There is a strong chance that Mayer will have her baby, check in from home for a few weeks, and then head back to the daily grind like so many other mothers, albeit exhausted.  No one-man or woman-reaches her new position without being fully committed to their job. Plenty, if not all, mothers fall crazy in love with their child the moment they are born, but some of those mothers actually decide that regardless of their amazing careers and enormous salaries, they should ditch it all and cherish every. single. moment of their baby's life. And every woman should be able to make that decision. But I fear that should Mayer decide to do so, no other woman in the foreseeable future will be offered such a high powered "position."

I believe that Mayer will start her new job, have her baby, and be right back on the ball with work, setting a new precedent for employers everywhere. And should she do so, there will be few, if any, companies that will be able to argue-publicly or not-being able to not hire women, even pregnant ones, into any position. But if she feels that for some reason that she can't be both a CEO of Yahoo! and a good mother and chooses to leave her new position anytime soon, there is no doubt that people will think women just can't do it, and it could set us back ever further. The woman has a lot of pressure on her to make this work. And did I mention that she's only 37-years-old? Suddenly, I'm feeling like a major under-achiever...but that's another story.

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