Women Executives Are Monitoring and Analyzing Mayer’s Maternity-Leave Decision

Marissa Mayer has been shaking things up since she became CEO of Yahoo in 2012. Sometimes she causes waves with how she’s trying to lead the once-pioneering tech brand back to its old relevance. And sometimes—as now—Mayer is the subject of controversy over how she handles the very public intersection between her private life and as a mother and her position as a leading icon of female CEOs.

As a result of her exposure, we can expect more women CEOs to confront these issues in the coming years, as a rising number of females are making it to the C-suite during their child-bearing years.

“Does her decision to take such a short leave implicitly tell women that they should give up maternity leave to advance their careers?”

In Mayer’s case, she announced via Tumblr that she and her husband, Zachary Bogue, are expecting identical twin girls to arrive in December, Mayer wrote that she plans to take only a brief maternity leave. She cited as her reason for the short maternity leave the fact that “this is a unique time in Yahoo’s transformation.”

This announcement comes just three years after Mayer worked through her pregnancy and childbirth with a baby boy in the year Yahoo hired her. That time, she took only two weeks of maternity leave and prompted criticism from women who worried that her decision would make it seem that mothers who took a much longer leave somehow weren’t serious about their careers.

Now Mayer is doing it again, and critics are offering the same argument: Does her decision to take such a short leave implicitly tell women that they should give up maternity leave to advance their careers? And is she saying that female careerists, having fought hard collectively over the years to win sufficient paid maternity leave and to be able to come back to the jobs they leave temporarily, are slackers for doing what’s entitled to them?

“Although Mayer recently extended maternity and paternity leave for the employees of Yahoo,” wrote Joanna Venditti on the popular parenting website BabyCenter, “what message is Mayer sending to her employees by not taking the allotted time off herself?”

And, as the UK’s Telegraph newspaper noted recently, Mayer’s move is drawing more attention to the fact that taking maternity leave—even though they’re fully entitled to it—can endanger women’s careers.

Mayer is one of the most highly visible female CEOs in the world. Women will expectedly  continue taking cues from her career long past her delivery date.


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