Comes news that Marissa Meyer, the newly hired CEO of the troubled online giant Yahoo!, is pregnant. Jessica Grose is talking about it on Slate. Meyer says that she’s only taking a few weeks of maternity leave off, and she’ll work from home. But what if things don’t go smoothly with the birth, and Meyer needs more time? Grose hopes Yahoo! will give it to her, and that she blazes a trail for women in the workplace. Excerpt:
In fact, just this morning I read about a pregnant truck driver named Amber Reeves, who was fired because her doctor said she couldn’t lift more than 20 pounds, and her job required her to lift up to 75 pounds. According to RH Reality Check, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act doesn’t protect women like Reeves, who are hindered by their pregnancy but can still continue to work. Many more women are like Reeves than are like Mayer. So, let’s hope that the new Yahoo CEO uses her very prominent role to help women like Reeves, rather than totally ignoring the fact that there are some structural barriers in place that prevent women less privileged than she is to succeed.
For one thing, if Meyer thinks she’s going to be able to do meaningful work from home running a large company while giving her newborn the care and attention she will need, she’s dreaming. Something’s got to give. Either the baby is going to suffer, or her new company will.
“We finally have reached a point where a woman could be pregnant and stepping into that kind of big job,” said Sharon Vosmek, chief executive of Astia, a nonprofit group that advises female entrepreneurs. “Her age makes it exciting, not just because she’s quite youthful but because she’s also in this prime stage of life when so many women feel they have to step out or step back.”
Exciting? Yeah, I can imagine being a worker at the shaky company, who, in Meyer, will have its third CEO in a year. That’s just what you want: a corporate chief coming in facing a massive challenge to turn the company around, who will be distracted by maternity leave. If Meyer gives the company what it needs, I don’t see how she could possibly avoid radically shortchanging her baby, or breaking her own health. You really, really, really can’t have it all.
The reader who sent that link to me comments:
SHE’S THE CEO. How much time can a CEO take off? What if she decides to have four kids in six or seven years? Should she take six or eight months off for each one? Isn’t it problematic to have your big cheese off for two out of seven years? What kind of CEO says, “That would be fine… you wouldn’t need me.”
The writer brings up an example of a truck driver who got fired after having a baby because she could only lift 20 pounds, but the job required lifting 75. But… the job requires lifting 75.
Oy. I worked for a small publishing company once. At one point there were four high-level women out on FMLA. The place could barely function.
Things are complicated.
Carol Bartz, the last CEO, called the Yahoo! board “doofuses” who are afraid that everybody thinks they’re the worst corporate board in the country. Meeting a crisis situation by hiring a CEO who will be out of the office on maternity leave, and distracted by caring for her newborn, strikes me as the kind of thing that pleases feminists and diversocratic idealists, but not the best idea for corporate governance. But then again, I hold to this troglodytic idea that if a job needs doing, you hire the best person for that job, and not act from some sort of egalitarian or diversocratic mentality for the sake of pretending that everybody is equally capable of doing the job.
Oh well, Meyer’s forthcoming child is going to grow up not seeing much of Mommy anyway, or daddy, who’s a lawyer and investment manager. Guess the kid should get used to it as soon as possible. Hey kid, you really can’t have it all.