I’m sure you have heard the news that Yahoo has just named 37-year-old Marissa Mayer as their new CEO. Not only is she now one of the most powerful women in the technology industry, the former Google executive is also six months pregnant with her first child. Mayer will be charged with leading the struggling publicly traded Internet giant that has had recent series of CEO disasters.
My reaction: concern. I'd like it to be: Yay for women! But it's not.
I can't stand that all eyes will be on Mayer, making judgments and predictions. I want her to succeed. But,I don't want her to stand for every women in the workplace. We've seen that women, even if they are mothers, have proved capable leaders. I don't think we should look to this woman as THE example of the successful or unsuccessful juggle between work and family and I'm concerned that is going to happen.
It appears Mayer represents a major first, the only CEO of a publicly traded Fortune 500 technology company that has been pregnant. As techcrunch.com points out: "Female CEOs at public tech companies are incredibly rare, but for them to be 30-something is even rarer. So from the start Mayer was standout, but it’s hard to think of a time when a CEO of a major listed tech company has gone on maternity leave. It could certainly be a trailblazing turn."
Trailblazing is good. But there will be a lot of pressure on Mayer to return from maternity leave quickly and seamlessly and that's what has me concerned. She will be criticized regardless of whether she powers through maternity leave or takes a decent amount of time off with her newborn.
Huffington Post columnist Lisa Belkin called Mayer: The most powerful pregnant woman in America. Belkin noted that Mayer's first comment on the subject was that she will take only a few weeks of maternity leave when her son arrives in October and she'll probably work through those from home. Belkin says she likely will not power through quite as single-mindedly on her maternity leave as she thinks she will.
As CEO, Mayer has some advantages in her balancing act. She will be able to hire help at home — lots of it if she needs it. She will be able to work from home at times if she needs to do that. Certainly, she will have the support system in place to make a quick adjustment to motherhood. She will have a lot going for her.
I want Mayer to succeed in her new role because I think Yahoo could benefit from having a women at the top when many of their users are female. I want her to succeed because she is savvy and innovative and authoritative. I don't want her decisions to be second guessed because market analysts accuse her of being sleep deprived or torn in her priorities. I want her to be one of many new mom leaders who succeed as a Fortune 500 CEO, not just the first and certainly not the last.