Marissa Mayer: Yahoo!’s Pregnant CEO
There’s lots of buzz about former Google Gal, turned Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer. And I’m glad to say only one of the reasons people are buzzing is that she’s pregnant. She also joins the very small club of fewer than two dozen women to serve as chief executive of a Fortune 500 company. And something few people seem to be commenting on, but surely a significant contributing factor to her pregnancy, at age 37, she is the youngest CEO of a Fortune 500 by a few years. I think it’s awesome that Mayer is taking on this career challenge of a lifetime at the same time she’s starting a family, and I think it’s especially notable that Yahoo!’s board did not shy away from offering her the post based on the life stage she’s in. Mayer, together with Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, is at the forefront of a demographic and workplace shift that has the potential to ignite the biggest social change in American society since the civil rights movement. Technology is a young people’s industry. Top executives, innovators and trend setters in the field are increasingly more likely to be in their 20s and 30s than in their 50s and 60s. Male or female, they are more likely to have a sense of personal empowerment when it comes to controlling their own lives, their schedules, and their workplace culture. And young moms (even expectant ones) like Mayer and Sandberg, and newlyweds like Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, and all the young talented engineers, designers, architects and others who create the value for these firms, can and will be reshaping the expectation of what it means to be successful. Balancing work and life will be an outdated notion, because in short order employers will recognize that work is life and life is work and there is no line between the two when it comes to divvying up mind share. In short, we’re using the same brain and the same Google calendar to schedule board meetings, soccer practice, business trips and family vacation.
And, as a side note, I challenge all of those who have chastised Mayer for saying she’ll only be taking a few weeks maternity leave, and working through them, to set their judgment aside. Through hard work and career success, she has earned a lifetime of control over her schedule that will enable her to be present for her children as she wants and needs and which most women can only aspire to. And as Progressive Mom reminded me, after my first child was born I said I’d rather have worked more when she was a newborn and taken more time off when she was older. When they’re sleeping 23 hours a day, it’s really not so tough to catch up on e-mail. It’s when they become toddlers and insist on sitting on your lap and typing for you, that the challenge really begins.