Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer and The Big Announcement

The new CEO of Yahoo was already a sensation before she announced, three hours after Yahoo announced her new job, that she is six months pregnant.

I waded into the conversation reluctantly. I’m divorced, no kids, work now for whom I choose and have always worked mostly with men, including more than my share of more traditional European and Latin American men. And I have always expected, and received, opportunities that were based on merit.

I never complained about sexism. I just did the work.

That’s not to say I don’t strongly advocate for equal opportunity for all genders, races, sexual orientations, level of physical capabilities, and ethnic backgrounds. However, I don’t believe in ignoring a basic truth: Not all jobs are well suited for all people and not all people for all jobs. Some jobs, like Big Four audit partner, new parent, Fortune 500 CEO and road warrior international consultant require a level of time, energy and dedication many are not willing to commit. I believe that you are a poor example and a poor steward of God’s gifts if you do these jobs without a 125% commitment.

Mayer is 37, and pregnancy is more risky for her and the baby than if she were younger. The March of Dimes says 1 in 5 women in the United States has her first child after age 35 and the good news is most have healthy pregnancies and healthy babies. Studies show, though, that women in their mid-to-late 30s and 40s may face some special pregnancy risks. Mayer may need more than a “few weeks” and may not be able to “work throughout it,” like she told Fortune. As far as we know, mom and baby are healthy, but contingency planning, starting now, should also be in the works.

Why aren’t more women complaining instead about the horrible example of someone seemingly succumbing to peer and media pressure and planning to shortchange one of the most wonderful and blessed things life has to offer just so no one questions her abilities?

The Forbes editors asked me to cover only the disclosure issues, only the law, only the answers to the questions some might be asking about who should have told shareholders what and when.

In spite of that limited scope, I was called a misogynist, a sexist, and more by commenters (Read the comments!) and other bloggers and writers just for raising the issue of disclosures.

I’ve been called much worse. It’s all in a day’s work.

11 replies
  1. Any Mouse
    Any Mouse says:

    “Why aren’t more women complaining instead about the horrible example of someone seemingly succumbing to peer and media pressure and planning to shortchange one of the most wonderful and blessed things life has to offer just so no one questions her abilities?”

    And yet, wonderful and blessed as it is, you have chosen not to partake. Except, in this case, to criticize others’ choices which you are confident are not made thoughtfully. Why the disconnect?

    Perhaps because you know nil about this gal, what makes her tick; about her progeny, what will make him/her/them tick; about her resources including her creativity, energy, a significant other, a helpful grandma, etc.? Perhaps because you are projecting your own sense of inadequacy? Perhaps because Americans in general feel no compunctions about expressing their opinions on topics about which they know nothing? Except that they are sure they have the one true answer for someone’s private choices.

    Or are you telling the many millions of folks who have gone that route and raised perfectly fine kids that those were insufficiently considered choices? Come to think of it, don’t many poor women, out of necessity, have babies and raise them in some form or fashion without staying home. Aren’t many of these children wonderful people? Perhaps you are ‘classist’.

    While I would MUCH prefer to have stayed home after each of our kids were born while working at one of the Big 5, we (due to peer and media pressure chose to both work), I am convinced having a child made me a MUCH better auditor, probably benefitted the kids. I’m just glad we were lucky enough to be fertile, to have two wonderful, healthy kids who have brought so much joy to our lives. Our choices were completely valid and basically no one else’s business.

    I don’t know if you are misogynist or sexist. I just think, in this particular matter, you are behaving like a pompous ass. Going to you for child bearing/rearing advice sounds a bit like going to a mechanic who has never fixed a car. Caveat emptor.

    (BTW, I love your blog.)

  2. Charlie Quinn
    Charlie Quinn says:

    You are not a sexist, a shrill women’s libber, or any other nasty name that the ‘dull and ugly’ have in their vocabularies.
    Do your thing, GAL. Do your thing.
    Charlie Quiinn

  3. Cat
    Cat says:

    Its funny you write this. I wondered if I was setting a bad example for my younger staff by coming back from maternity leave after only 6 and 7 weeks. I had two easy recoveries and felt somewhat ready to return but I wished (especially the second time) that I could just bring my kid with me to work. Having JUST done this, I think that if she does have an easy recovery she could return to work at 3 weeks. However, she would have to have a 24 hour nanny especially if she plans to breastfeed. I think its easy before you have kids to feel like ‘yeah, I can totally do this’. Its way harder than you think.

  4. Francine
    Francine says:


    No one should go to me for child bearing or child rearing advice. In spite of being oldest of six, auntie to 11, and a godmother of four, I am not qualified to even have an opinion.

    I do not have children because I have not been married for the last fourteen years. Not being married is the choice I made and for me that means not raising children alone or with someone who does not want to do it with me. When I was married we did not reach a point of agreement on the subject at the same time. For that and many other reasons we split. But I always wanted to have children (four actually) and I am now fifty and past that sell-by date. Que será será…

    So more information than you need or maybe wanted or that anyone who is not my family or friend deserves.

    My purpose in writing the Forbes column was not to give anyone advice about child bearing or child rearing but to give information about legal disclosures related to the announcement because my editor asked me to. In addition, I do have significant experience as an executive, so I also advised Yahoo to plan for the possibility everything may not go as swimmingly as Ms. Mayer thinks it will right now. In my experience as an executive over 25 years, that, like a lot of personal stuff for both men and women of all levels, happens and companies have a duty to plan for it.

  5. Francine
    Francine says:


    Not for me to judge. My goal was to advise Yahoo to plan for the possibility everything might not be perfect since that’s a possibility, that’s their duty and she is a very important person to their strategy.

  6. Cat
    Cat says:

    I didn’t think you were judging! I agree with your article. I think three weeks is pretty optimistic but I have been there and understand the mommy guilt. I am certainly not a high power ceo, but I understand the pressure of “how in the world can I really take 12 weeks off and not let down this company?!” This is just the beginning of mommy guilt for her and i am sympathetic. I know that I felt guilty about taking leave both times, especially since I lost all four of my seniors the month before i went on leave and had to hire new people who all started while I was on leave. Its nutty and I felt a HUGE amount of guilt about taking leave in the middle of it. If you are driven enough to be a CEO, then its hard to step away from that. You think to yourself, the baby sleeps a bunch anyways. Taking calls and writing emails will be easy. As much as I thought that both times around, once the baby was here the world kind of paused for a while and I felt like the emails were intruding on my time with this new little person who needed my full attention. I was so tired after the second one that I fell asleep at a stoplight and only woke up with someone was banging on my window. And that was a month after I had him.

    I think she will regret committing to such a short leave. I regret coming back so quickly but I felt like I had no other option financially or professionally.

  7. Kim Joseph Onisko
    Kim Joseph Onisko says:

    Thought your analysis was well-reasoned and appropriate. You know you’ll take a beating when broaching a politically sensitive issue. Take the abuse and move on. I for one appreciate your candor.

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