Last year, Marissa Mayer was named CEO of Yahoo! She was the youngest CEO of a Fortune 500 company, she was about to be a mother, she was a SHE. It was amazing to a lot of us women who are making a career in the male-dominated world of technology and doing so while also raising families. Finally! Our time was coming. People would see that women could do the job, and “kids” is not a 4-letter word.
And then she slowly set about unraveling the progress made by working women over the past several decades.
She would only take a 2 week maternity leave, and she would be accessible and working as much as she could during those 2 weeks. Then she had the baby, and in a subsequent interview stated that motherhood is easy. It’s all about ruthless prioritization. In fact, she was working within hours of having the baby and back at the office full-time 2 weeks later. To quote my little Atoosa, “WHHAAAAAAAT?”
I’ll admit that my maternity leave was very similar to Marissa Mayer’s, mostly out of necessity. I won’t go into the reasons now, but I will say that I felt guilty. Not just about what I was missing with my children in those early days, but also for the precedent I was setting for the women that followed me.
I count myself to be a feminist. I believe that women are as capable and strong and smart as men. I believe we can just about anything men can do, except maybe pee while standing (although I saw these paper cone thingies…actually, let’s not go there). Mostly, I want to make help make things better for women. I want my daughters to have the resources and the flexibility to have the career and the family, and not struggle so much to have it. Because no matter what Marissa Mayer says, motherhood is a struggle. I’ll admit it. I am insanely organized and ruthless at prioritizing my to-do list, and balancing it all is a struggle.
I have fought pretty hard to get a little bit of this flexibility for myself in the past few years. I get it in the form of remote work. Two days a week, I work from home. Three days a week, I go in to the office, but I leave at a very reasonable hour, so my children spend a good chunk of their day with me every day. I am back at my computer as soon as their heads hit the pillow, but it’s not so bad. Yes, I’m tired all the time, but I have the flexibility to spend time with my children and still be a major contributor at the office.
This week, Marissa Mayer announced that remote work would no longer be allowed at Yahoo! “Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home,” she said. Oh really? That’s news to me. Because those are two things that have improved for me since I started a partial telework schedule. Anecdotal evidence, I know, but I call bullshit on this one.
I’m not sure what she is thinking, but in making this announcement, Marissa Mayer is not just setting back women but all parents. See, men need flexibility also. One of the best things we can do for women is give men some flexibility in the workplace, so they can be equal contributors in the home.
Marissa Mayer clearly subscribes to the idea that women must learn to function like men in the workplace. I say the old way of doing things is unfair, not just for women but also for men, and for all of us to get ahead we should change the rules. With this new policy, she has set us all back. I hope she sees the error of her ways and retracts this policy. If not, something tells me there will be a lot of high quality programmers, product designers and other IT workers in the market for new jobs. Which is a good thing for my company, because we’re hiring.