Since Yahoo! announced Marissa Mayer would be the company’s new CEO in mid-July, there have been countless articles, television segments, radio experts, bloggers, and opinion writers weighing in on everything from her experience to her clothing to her pregnancy and her marriage. And until now, Career Girl Network has stayed out of the mix. Until now.
You see, I’ve watched for my entire career how women have had to defend their right to sit among men, and among the best in the business world no matter their gender. I’ve seen first hand an incredibly powerful woman at one of the largest corporations in the world be purposefully shut out of meetings because the men in the high ranks of the company didn’t want her there. I’ve heard stories of women years ago hiding the fact that they were even married for fear an employer might not hire them because they might have a baby too soon.
But never did I think that a glass ceiling breaker like Marissa Mayer would be criticized in her shining moment of ascending to CEO in a male dominated industry for……her maternity plan? And her pregnancy?
Somehow we’ve stepped back in time to when women being pregnant rendered them incapacitated. Two years ago, I watched a pregnant woman run an ultra marathon. Just this week, one is competing at the highest level of her sport in the London Olympics. But somehow, the idea of Marissa Mayer running a corporation while pregnant or making ambitious choices with her maternity leave is seemingly unthinkable for many in our midst. Am I the only one who sees something fundamentally wrong here? She’s not going to be jumping out of any planes, people. She’s running a company whose main product is an Internet search engine. This is not heart pounding dangerous work that might somehow endanger her unborn child.
And then there are those individuals who are criticizing her decision to return to work quite almost immediately after birth. These people believe she is setting a poor example and other women will feel pressured to take shorter maternity leaves. I beg to differ. Marisa Mayer is making a choice with her maternity leave. Because she has a choice. She could take a longer leave but she is choosing what is right for her and her family. This choice should not offend women, but empower them to believe they too (if the time comes) can make the choice that is right for them.
Why is it, then, that we can’t look at Marissa Mayer’s historic appointment for what it really is? A huge step in the right direction. In case you need a little ammo to stop talking about her pregnancy, here are a few facts you should know:
- Marissa’s appointment makes for 19 women CEOs in the Fortune 500 – an all-time high.
- Marissa is now the youngest CEO in the Fortune 500 at only 37 – a huge step away from the grey haired men of old.
- She’s a woman who had already broken the glass ceiling of corporate board service by serving on Wal-Mart’s Board of Directors.
- She’s famous at Google for holding regular “office hours” where she gave advice to young Google employees weekly – what an example of mentorship!
So how about this for Marissa – Congratulations. And you go girl. No strings attached.