Marissa Mayer becomes CEO of Yahoo and proves women cannot have it all

Today’s news: Marissa Mayer was just appointed CEO at Yahoo. She is a very early employee at Google,  Silicon Valley icon, and she’s six months pregnant. She has announced she’ll take only two weeks maternity leave.

My reaction: I’m so sick of people saying that women like Marissa Mayer are trailblazers when they take on huge corporate responsibility instead of taking care of young kids at home. Leaving kids at home so you can do a big job at the office is old news. People have been doing it for decades.

Marissa Mayer is very Sheryl Sandberg: smart, driven, hard working, a high achiever. She represents all the things that we celebrate in our culture.

Do you know what we do not celebrate? Staying home with kids. There are no official titles or pay scales. It’s disappointing to women who don’t have kids to watch another woman with a fascinating, fun career leave that career to take care of her kids. It scares the women who don’t have kids. No one aspires to be the woman who dumps a great career to step out of the spotlight.

Here are some samples from the media reporting on Marissa Mayer:

• “What a role model,” writes Claire Cain Miller for the New York Times. “By taking such a powerful leadership role while she is pregnant, Ms. Mayer, who has always been outspoken about encouraging girls to study computer science and pursue technology jobs, is becoming an example in the mold of Sheryl Sandberg.”

• “We think this is a first,” notes Colleen Taylor forTechCrunch. “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.”

• Writing for the Atlantic Wire, Dashiell Bennett writes in the Atlantic Wire, “she’s not just fighting for all women, she’s fighting for all the moms out there too. It doesn’t take a giant leap of imagination to see that Mayer will now become the poster mom for the ‘can women have it all?’ debate.”

Why do we celebrate Mayer’s decision? Why does Mayer fight for all women? You know why people don’t like to hire pregnant women? Because it is completely normal to have a new baby and be so consumed by the new baby that you divert lots of energy to that baby. In fact, it would be abnormal to not divert a significant amount of energy to a new baby.

So why do we celebrate women who are aberrations? Clearly only a minority of women could even dream of making the choice to take two weeks maternity leave when they have enough resources to take much more. Her decision is an anomalous decision.

The most revolutionary thing you can do for women right now is to stop celebrating women who choose to work 120 hours a week when they have a new baby. It’s been forty years since we have been able to say publicly that someone needs to stay home with a baby, forty years of feminism rammed down everyone’s throat. We need new ideas for the lives of women. Women should be able to be celebrated for making a wide range of choices. If Marissa Mayer stepped down to take care of her baby, would people say Marissa Mayer is a poster girl?

Women are driven to take care of children. Pew Research reports that the majority of women would like to work part-time, not full-time. This is important information because it means the role model for women will work part-time. The media needs to stop pretending that women want huge jobs while they are raising kids. It is not interesting to discuss what Marissa Mayer will do as a mom. Given the choice, very few women would ever choose to go back to work after two weeks.

On top of that, Mayer has never even had a baby before. So we now have a spokesperson for mothers at work who has never even been a mother. And if she goes back to work two weeks after she has a baby, she will have very little sense of what being a mom is like in the way that most of us are being moms—that is, sapping our energy for our kids. You can’t do that in a job like running Yahoo. A person does not have that kind of energy.

You can have kids and not let them sap your energy. It can be done. Very few women would want it, so why do we bother talking about it as something inspirational? The media is stuck in the 1970s. Reporting about women in business is stuck in the 1970s. I’m bored by it and you should be too.

What should we be interested in? What is not 1972 all over again? Here are tactics for a post-feminist generation:

1. Marry rich and spend your husband’s money to fund your own startup so you have a part-time job after you have kids. The poster-girl for this is Fred Wilson’s wife who is now an investor. But tons of VCs I know have told me about “my wife’s new app” and almost everyone I know in this position does not want to be called out for it. But it’s all over the place.

2. Go back to school when you have young kids to get a PhD. Not because you’ll do anything with it, but because you’ve been a high-achieving intellectual your whole life and the lack of an endgame for raising kids is disconcerting. So you create a goal for yourself that is manageable while you have kids and you meet it. This also serves to present you with a wide array of fascinating conversations with smart people, which is totally lacking in the world of small kids all day long.

3. Have kids very early. When you’re 25. Really. I think it will work. Women who do that are in a great position to ramp up their career during their 40s, when their kids are gone. Having kids early avoids the difficult pattern of building a career, scaling back a career, and building all over again. Having kids early means you only ramp up once.

4. Quit and stay at a big job. This is when you don’t leave your big job physically, but you do it in your sleep. Literally. You cut back on your hours without getting permission, which you can do because you were working 14 hour days before the baby. You do not initiate new projects, you refuse almost all travel, and you don’t ask for a raise. You see how long you can stay in the high-level job and spend time with your baby and not get fired. Eventually, people will either write you off as dead corporate wood and leave you alone at work, or they will fire you. Either way, it’s a good way to see if you can hold on to the rung you climbed up to and still take care of your kids as much as you want to. Look around the office. You’ll see tons of women doing quit and stay. They’re waiting until their kids get older and then they’ll switch jobs and ramp up and go back to climbing the ladder.

These are just four examples. I see a lot more. There are a lot of innovations from women at work who are determined to take care of kids and have an interesting life at the same time.

And now is a great time to plug my new book: The New American Dream: Blueprint for a New Path to Success. Because the new American Dream is about having an interesting life, not making a lot of money. And women who have kids want to have a part of that dream. We don’t want to get left behind intellectually; we want to be part of all the innovation going on in the world. It’s old-fashioned to think this means we have to leave a newborn baby in someone else’s arms to go back to work and run companies.


348 replies
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  1. Louisa
    Louisa says:

    “So why do we celebrate women who are aberrations? Clearly only a minority of women could even dream of making the choice to take two weeks maternity leave when they have enough resources to take much more. Her decision is an anomalous decision.

    The most revolutionary thing you can do for women right now is to stop celebrating women who choose to work 120 hours a week when they have a new baby. It’s been forty years since we have been able to say publicly that someone needs to stay home with a baby, forty years of feminism rammed down everyone’s throat.”

    —–>Feminism should about supporting women’s choices. Who the heck are you to say somebody’s lifestyle is an aberration? Marissa Mayer is one smart woman and I am sure she knows what she is doing. You also seem to forget she has a husband, and they made that choice together. There are diverse styles of parenting, why would force every family to live a certain way? This is none of your business.

    Besides, please stop being ignorant about feminism! Without feminism and women fighting for their own freedom, you would never have the life you have today.

    • Louisa
      Louisa says:

      Also, women want what they want. If a woman wants a big career, no one has the right to say she should want raising kids instead.

      You should take a gender class 101. Start with Simone de Beauvoir.

    • Rachel D.
      Rachel D. says:

      Feminism needs to be redefined.

      Feminism is not a defense for making poor choices and wanting society to accept it. “Having it all” is a farce. Trying to “have it all” is a poor choice.

      Feminism should be about women making better choices, and then committing to excellence in those choices.

      Have kids….commit to loving those kids.

      Have a career….commit to succeeding in that career.

      Why does everyone insist on having both and being substandard, subpar and mediocre at both?

      • HBD
        HBD says:

        Why the need to judge and condemn other people’s choices? Personally I can live with the idea that some people chose a different lifestyle than the one I chose. I find the contrary rather suspicious.

        Also your comment on feminism shows you first need to study what feminism is about, how diverse it is (you’ll learn there are several approches, so saying “feminism is …” doesn’t make much sense). What I can tell you is that feminism is more of framework that provides perspective to Society when it comes to gender (because gender is for the most part a social construction) so its members, especially women, can be empowered to make their OWN choice, to have the life they WANT, instead to do and to be whatever Society forces them to. This perspective feminism and gender studies provide is very valuable because fishes do not know they live in the water.

        Once you’ll know enough, you’ll be able to say what needs to be redefined.

        • Rachel D.
          Rachel D. says:

          “Feminism is not a defense for making poor choices and wanting society to accept it. “Having it all” is a farce. Trying to “have it all” is a poor choice.”

          My comments about feminism are specific to the stigma attached to it and how Marissa Mayer’s choices aren’t propelling anything forward, yet setting us back. Choosing to be a mediocre parent so you can have a career is not what feminism should be about.

          I’ll repeat that….choosing mediocrity as a parent so you can have a career does not help women. It raises resentful children. She’s decided where she wants to fail, and it’s with her kids.

          Excellence, for both men and women, in the roles they choose, whether it’s parenting or a career, is not talked about in feminist circles. The farce of “Having it all” is what I find so damaging.

      • Rachel C
        Rachel C says:

        “Choosing mediocrity as a parent so you can have a career does not help women. It raises resentful children. She’s decided where she wants to fail, and it’s with her kids.”

        My mum worked. I’m not resentful. She wasn’t mediocre. She didn’t fail.

        • Rachel D.
          Rachel D. says:

          I’m not talking about your mom, Rachel. I was talking about mine. I’m sure you had a great mom, and she did what she needed to do and she loved you very much.

          • HBD
            HBD says:

            So you do recognize you cannot generalize your judgment?
            Can’t we agree that it isn’t about whether or not a woman has a big career that can be the problem, but rather HOW a mother AND the father manage it all?

          • Rachel D.
            Rachel D. says:

            Yes, HBD, I have no argument with parents working together to figure out what’s best for their child, so long as they are actively involved and physically and emotionally bonding with their children, because that’s how you show love, by physically being there for someone.

            What I find offensive is the “best-care-money-can-buy” way of parenting, because you cannot put a price on the kind of bond you develop with your children by actually being there for them yourself. Not being there can have serious psychological and emotional consequences.

  2. whattosay
    whattosay says:

    You speak my mind. Kudos to Marissa Mayer, her hard work and dedication are definitely something to admire, but her impact regarding the position of working mothers in our society is negligible if not negative. How many of us aspire to be CEOs anyway?

    However, post-feminist generation has their hands tied somewhat. Founding a successful start-up is great but there are only so many ideas that stuck, so it’s not something that most women would successfully implement, even if they tried.

    PhD is flexible and could be a good idea, however it’s generally a preparation for a higher academic career, while industry world is not as much interested in that kind of experience (been there).

    Having kids early – maybe, but make sure you have at least some work experience prior, else the post-kid job search can turn quite sour (been there too).

    Quit and stay – uhm, didn’t work out for me – in the current economy with frequent budget cuts, there are always colleagues who work harder and are therefore more useful for the company.

    Still, I admire any woman who succeeds using any of the suggested methods, with no need to regret missing her kids’ childhood.

    • HBD
      HBD says:

      I want to be CEO one day. Many women want to. What a silly thing to say!
      I wholeheartedly agree than if a woman want to raise her kids most of her time, there shouldn’t be a social stigma against it. But the social stigma is more against men wanting to raise kids than vice versa. Men should also be given that choice.

      Seriously, people want what they want. Please don’t tell me that the fact I want to succeed professionally is inherently wrong, because of my gender!

      • whattosay
        whattosay says:

        People may not be saying that they want become CEOs, but some are definitely trying to set the path by assuming more responsibility and sacrificing more of their personal resources than others. This is the case of Marissa Mayer who is brilliant, hardworking, and ambitious, and in the context, her gender is utterly irrelevant. In Penelope’s words, such people rising to power is old news.

        However, her impact on the role of women in a workplace may be negative, if employers interpret her decision as a justification that the current system is fair enough towards mothers. Since if she – with her 300mm and no necessity to work, doesn’t take a proper leave but decides to juggle an extremely demanding job and motherhood, how could anyone possibly be interested in staying at home with a kid?

        Media looking up to her easily dismiss the resources she has at her hand, including staff working around-the-clock, time flexibility thanks to her leading position, and the office where she could probably keep her baby with his nanny, or at least a private space for pumping milk. So after all, maybe she really can have it all, and I wish her all the best. But her career path and decisions don’t make life a tiny bit easier for the vast majority of women.

  3. thandi
    thandi says:

    feminism is not a bad thing stop bad mouthing it. Feminism is about pro choice women chosing to be stay at home moms like you and home schooling… That’s all you. You chose it goog for you. Now she wants a twoo week leave and wants to work. She may not be in the majority part of the research you present maybe she’s in the minority. So what? It’s her choice If I didn’t know better I’d say you’re jealous.

  4. Luann
    Luann says:

    You know what bugs me about Marissa Mayer? She’s younger and prettier than me, vastly smarter than me, and infinitely more successful than me.

  5. Dannielle Blumenthal
    Dannielle Blumenthal says:

    My late grandfather had a saying, “words that come from the heart, go to the heart” and this is one of those posts.

    I had to make this difficult choice when I was pregnant with my older daughter. Go back to work and put her in daycare, or stay home. As a feminist I was scared to lose my financial clout. But in the end I couldn’t do it.

    I am aware that many women don’t have that choice and it upsets me because kids need their mothers. They do. We do.

    To be fair, the conversation should be about mothers AND FATHERS. Fathers are terribly undervalued and their presence is so important to children as well.

    Also to be fair, poor women not only have to leave their own children, but often must take low-paying caregiving jobs for other people’s children. And are stereotyped as uncaring, abusers, etc.

    Penelope’s post makes it seem that you can plan your life. I don’t think that’s true. It hasn’t been for me. Mostly just take it a day at a time, and follow my gut about which way to go. I like to think that G-d is guiding my thinking somewhat.

    It’s also really, really sexist and unfortunate for a feminist to say that tired phrase, “marry rich.” What a horrible message. I would never want my kids to use or be used that way.

    I hope that this post opens an enduring conversation about what we as a country are doing to our children with our workaholic ethos. We need to get back to a time when work, as important as it was, was only a part of our lives. Put the family back where it belongs, in the center. Put our interests, hobbies, and passions, back as another fulfilling part.

    Well-rounded people with loving relationships and a network of people they care about. A good society.

    Since so many people are unemployed maybe we should start to take seriously a shift toward the part-time society – downshift the 40 hour workweek to a 20-30 hour workweek. Make structural changes that increase the quality of everyone’s lives. There is a sociologist who promotes this idea, I just can’t recall his name right now.

  6. fred wilson
    fred wilson says:


    joanne was a successful entrepreneur in the apparel business for the first 15 years of our marriage and that allowed me to pay my dues working in my first two venture capital firms. she paid the bills, bought our first home, and clothed our children.

    that was a smart investment by her because it allowed me to develop the skills that have served me and my firms well over the past 15 years.

    my success is her success. we are a team. always have been. and always will be.

  7. Lisa Sinicki
    Lisa Sinicki says:

    We worry about what’s best for our kids and what’s best for our careers. But what about what’s best for our own physical and mental wellbeing?

    I’m not predicting how anyone else’s body will react, but doing what Ms. Mayer is planning took quite a toll on me. And I didn’t have nearly the caliber of job that she has.

    I did two weeks maternity leave. The price I paid was extra post-partum exhaustion for an extended period. Years later my do it all–all at once approach to family and career led to an autoimmune disorder. Nothing life threatening–just some alopecia. Just enough to make me understand that there are consequences to doing too much.

  8. Sally
    Sally says:

    God i love you. Point 4 is me but I didnt know it. Will keep going with my strategy & see what happens. You shoud add in requests for training so your CV looks good when you are ready to move on.

  9. S.Weisner
    S.Weisner says:

    Excellent! I agree.
    A decade into my career, w a 17-month-old at home, and all I want to do is get out of my full-time job and into a part-time one, so I can spend more time w my little guy. But…I’m the breadwinner and my husband is unemployed. Isn’t it ironic? When I was in grad school, this is what I THOUGHT I wanted. We’ll see how Marissa feels after the baby comes along…. (Actually, we probably WON’T see how she feels. she’ll take he 2 weeks maternity leave, return to work, leave the baby w a caretaker, and manage a company AND an aching heart.)

  10. roberta
    roberta says:

    My take on this is that everyone should hold off on the accolades until she has that baby. She might not want to leave it after she sees it. Or, the baby might have problems (god forbid) and she may have to stay home. Having kids is a crapshoot. Anything can happen between now and when she gives birth.

  11. Meghan
    Meghan says:

    I’ll let you know how the kids-at-25-thing goes: I got married at 24, had a baby a month before my one-year anniversary and after staying home with my baby for six months (my company went bankrupt two months before I delivered, I got an awesome opportunity through my blog at 26.

    I’m intrigued by your theory to have kids young and ramp up a career later so we’re trying it out: our goal is to turn this position into one I can do from home most of the time, save up some money, have baby #2 in about 18 months, and take a long maternity leave.

    Two weeks. That’s ridiculous.

  12. scout
    scout says:

    I think you are right on here. I dislike the recent conversation about “having it all” because I think we all should define what “having it all” means for ourselves. I’ve have a great career that has morphed and stretched as I’ve added children and my priorities have changed. In fact, I’d say that I make more money and have a far more interesting job now after doing some odd years of freelance and part time work outside of my intial field, than I would have if I had just taken maternity leave and gone right back to the same full time position I had before having kids.

    I am currently at a crossroads right now- trying to decide between just “holding steady” in my current role without agressively trying to move forward, or straight up quitting.

    I buy into the idea of having an interesting life over having a lot of money, but I struggle with the uncertainty of taking care of myself in my old age. That is really the only thing holding me back. We’ve done a good job saving to date, but I fear it is not enough.

    Now that I am 36, I have a solid six figure corporate job that includes bonus and stock and a 401k. If I hold steady for the next ten years, I would be more likely to have a solid nest egg than if I quit to have _just one more baby_ and try to get my series of young reader fiction off the ground. But at what cost? Will I be so stressed out from keeping the balls in the air that I barely recognize myself? Will I regret not having time to do more with my kids? Or would being able to afford sending them on exchanges and outward bound adventure trips in the summer, or taking them to see America over spring break be worth the sacrfice?

    I realize these are excellent problems to have. I am blessed in so many ways and I am extremely thankful that my choices are not about survivial, medical hardship or war. Don’t get me wrong. Whatever I decide, I am sure my kids will turn out decently. It’s more about when I am sitting here, 30 years from now, will I think I did the right thing? What will I regret?

    • scout
      scout says:

      Totally lame to reply to myself, but I had the thought this morning that perhaps the biggest mistake I ever made was proving that I could make a substantial living. Similar to the saying about “don’t get really good at something you don’t want to do” or however it goes.

  13. Katy
    Katy says:

    I just want to respond to the problem of having kids when you’re 25 – a commenter above noted that you’re more likely to end up a single mom if you get married and have kids in youre early 20s.

    I’m the poster child for that scenerio. I am now ramping up my career because I had my kids so early — but I’m doing it as a single mom and this has been a handicap.

    Let me give you a better blueprint for women, based on my experience: go ahead and get married young. But make sure you get a degree in something very valuable before you have the kids. Engineering or nursing or something. Then IF your husband dumps you with the kids when you’re 30, all is not lost. You can still survive, build an interesting life, and not be doomed to poverty.

  14. Suzanne Kaplan
    Suzanne Kaplan says:

    This is a fantastic post. My position on Mayer’s decision is, Why bother having kids? Seriously, if you have the money to raise a child, why would you leave the child rearing to someone else? I don’t have kids, but have been around kids enough to know that kids really want their own parents around.

    I’m so glad that you are speaking up about this. To me, feminism is about choice and respect of those choices. Women should realize they if they raise kids and take time off from their career they are no less of a women/person. In fact, it shows they have their priorities straight.

    • Rachel C
      Rachel C says:

      It’s not black or white. That’s like saying, why get married if you don’t want to spend all day with your husband?

      • Rachel D.
        Rachel D. says:

        You shouldn’t get married to someone you don’t want to spend most of your time with. Finding a marriage partner is like finding a business partner. You have to trust that person with every aspect of your life and to make important decisions for you, financially and physically, as you get older. If you wouldn’t trust that person to run your business, then you won’t trust them to take care of you later in life making even harder decisions.

  15. Quit-and-Stayer
    Quit-and-Stayer says:

    Oh, man, I love this post. Mostly because I have an 8-month-old, and turned down an interesting, better-paying job earlier this year because I knew I couldn’t handle the pressure of being incredible at a new job yet. I’m firmly in Option #4, and will be until the wee dude is sleeping through the night.

  16. Laure
    Laure says:

    In one word: “Bravo” for this post.
    I have one other perspective of this event, and that’s Mrs. Meyer’s ( although she’s not fully aware herself of it ):
    “When you say “yes” to others, make sure you are not saying “no” to yourself” Paul Coehlo

    She’s making a big sacrifice in the name of business.
    Maybe she wants to change the world? Maybe one of her first decisions at the head of Yahoo will be to have a nursery, a breast-feeding room, more time off for fathers? Maybe she will pioneer a new way of managing and her vision will change Yahoo and the life of its employees in a lasting way?
    Who knows? I’ll be watching for her first decisions and hope She Means Success with a Woman’s Touch!

  17. Stephen
    Stephen says:

    I thought I was anxious waiting for the 2011 numbered and signed (For the Soul Searcher) book…but that has nothing on how excited I am for your reality TV show.

    Your stuff is so good.

  18. LKMeredith
    LKMeredith says:

    Love this post. I raised my kid and had/have an interesting (though not happy) life the hard way. Built a successful career (currently an EVP) before marrying (not rich) and having my daughter relatively late. Post divorce, moved back to my childhood hometown so dad and stepmom could help with childcare, and recently took a pay cut in exchange for a 4-day work week. You made me realize that I’ve also done the “quit and stay” although I still gotten promoted, which makes me question all that prior effort and sacrifice. Using this extra time for what I grew up resenting and avoiding but now crave – cooking, gardening, school and community volunteering. Stuff you just can’t do when working and commuting for 12 hours a day. Advice from my 47-year-old self to my 27-year-old self? Yes, marry rich. Mainly so that you don’t have to work so damn hard.

  19. Sullivus
    Sullivus says:

    Why doesn’t your list include the option of not having kids? Plenty of women (myself included) don’t want them. I recently read that 25% of professional women are choosing not to

    Or adopting/fostering kids? Adopt a kid that’s a few years old and you’re past the point where an at-home caregiver or daycare is necessary.

    And do most women only want to work part time because they want to spend it with their kids? I suspect that if money wasn’t an option most people (both men and women, with and without children) would want to work part time – it’s enough of a job to keep you busy and connected to the world while still giving you a lot of time to invest in hobbies / friends / family / volunteer work.

    • Jenny
      Jenny says:

      Yay! I’ve been going back to the comments list for days waiting for somebody to say something I could relate to. Me too, no kids, but would still rather be home taking care of me and my husband and our dogs!

      Another element to all this is invitro fertilization. Almost everyone around me who gets pregnant nowadays does it the invitro way. Without modern science and health insurance, many women who are attempting to have it all would find human biology stumping them more than societies expectations.

  20. Ashley A
    Ashley A says:

    We women can have it all. Despite your protestations, you do. Intelligence, athleticism at one point, start ups, education, communication skills, children, husband, farm. You ARE Marissa Mayer but you beat her to the punch. You are proof. She is proof. There is no reason for women to have to stay at home any more, at least full time.

  21. peter d
    peter d says:

    Penelope, I love how you cut through the c**p. As an amateur economist and evolutionist; the choices men and women must take for success are obviously so very different. The true measure of success in evolutionary terms is how many grand-children one leaves behind. Naturally the most successful route for a women is to marry rich and and young. I hate the way “society” warps this. You speak common sense while other commentators are like moths flying to flames.

  22. Debt Free Teen
    Debt Free Teen says:

    My mom stayed at home with us and I don’t think less of her for doing that. She’s back taking college classes to brush up. And she’s out there interviewing for jobs. I respect her a lot and we have a great relationship because she was there for me.

  23. Kathy
    Kathy says:

    I have to say as women we are too hard on each other. I too thought I would go back to work quickly after having my twins, but just could not do it. I don’t think you can know what is in her heart, but I applaud her for her success thus far. I have my own business which I work around my children whenever possible, which can at times be stressful but it is absolutely the right thing for our family. Does that mean I don’t use help when I need it no. My business will grow with my children with any luck! I don’t think you can have it “all at once”, but I think if this were a man who was about be become a father we would not be even discussing this. To her success and yours Penelope. I enjoy your blog, and enjoy its thought provoking content.

  24. Lisa
    Lisa says:

    Good luck to Marissa, I don’t think she will really be able to leave that baby after two weeks. That’s her ego talking. I don’t have kids, but work with a lot of women who do and they would prefer part time work as they are unable to not work at all for various reasons. They would love to be at home with kids, one friend took a layoff to be home with her kid. Yay for her!

  25. irene
    irene says:

    You are making (not in this post, but usually) great points and you have great insights. But you are generalizing way too much. Marissa Mayer may not need to work 14 hours per day, she has people to work for her. She might work instead of having hobbies, chatting with girlfriends and doing chores – like other women do. So net net she might be able to spend as much Quality time with the baby as stay-at-home moms. I think she can be a great CEO and a great mom. Her appointment as a CEO is a great victory for career women, moms or not. At least young blond pretty women will not be discounted right away!

    • Rachel C
      Rachel C says:

      I love this comment. It’s so true. My guess is she is a very efficient worker already and will become even more so.

    • Rachel D.
      Rachel D. says:

      These are the lies people tell themselves. It won’t be different for her than anyone else. It will be the same as any CEO in any company, and I’m sure she knows that. She is no more efficient than all of the CEOs that have preceded her. Stop lying to yourselves, people.

  26. barbidoesmiami
    barbidoesmiami says:

    What is worth celebrating is that, pregnant, she got the job. I was up for two jobs while pregnant with twins and was told that maybe I should delay my decision to take the jobs until after, both “suggestions” made by men.

    There are still many glass ceilings to be shattered, it is still an executive male world, we still have not had a woman president and are considering Mormon president who thinks women are best at home.

    A Marissa is needed for the evolution of women to fully own their power, their choices, their rights and freedom to do what they want/need without social constraints.

    A good mother is a happy fulfilled mother, not a resentful unfulfilled woman who cries “if only”. That can mean anything to any individual.

    Our power as women is in supporting each other, we often fail by taking each other down with “she should do this, she should do that”. We think there is power in pointing out each other’s flaws and weaknesses but our inability to see women as “one” is our weakness. It is the un-judged sum total of Female decisions – full careers, raising kids, part-timing – that make us whole and give us true freedom to live how we wish, without sistas generalizing what’s best for everyone.

    Marrying a rich spouse and spending their money so you can be independent one day? Really? That may tether anyone in real time and karmically …

    • Katy
      Katy says:

      I was pregnant when I first started looking for jobs in engineering 10 years ago. I knew better than to try to walk into an interview with a big belly. I knew I wouldn’t be hired.

      So yes, in that respect, this is an AWESOME step forward.

      Until you consider what happens when you have to leave your newborn with a nanny 24/7.

      choices choice choices. and yeah – most women will not be able to marry rich men.

    • thandi
      thandi says:

      Best comment so far, spot on.I bet if I counted all the comments on this post I will not reach 200 as the post suggests.

  27. Andy
    Andy says:

    What I would celebrate – is an article about a male CEO who took paternity leave for even a couple weeks. That would send a stronger message in a positive way I think. I agree with Penelope’s assessment of the media’s miss-take on this. Two weeks and then turn over to nanny is not having it all and is not courageous. First, how many women of child bearing age are CEO’s? Or even in the executive suite? For her to get where she is this quickly she has to be highly driven and has sacrificed many things. If we define success in this culture as becoming CEO – then she has been highly successful. The journalists that commented write for a professional business audience – so that will be their definition of success. I worked on a project to get more women to apply for District Manager jobs in my company. The job is extremely demanding – 60-80 hours a week – eve’s and weekends. Very well compensated job. We had a number of women in the role, with kids – and tried to use them to talk to other women in the company about how they can make it all work. The problem was – when you talked to those women DMs privately, they told us that they can’t. They made choices – they had to choose one or the other to do well. Not suprisingly, half the women in these roles had stay at home husbands! As a species we are obsessed with MORE – in everything more $, more square feet, more vacation, more for our kids, more weight loss, more years on our life, more from our environment, is there anyone who has enough (most of us do) and is content with that? (most of us aren’t).

  28. karelys
    karelys says:

    It’s really stupid, not just old fashion, to think that we have to leave a newborn in someone else’s care so we can go back to work!

    I’ve noticed that even when you are poor and not married to a super rich guy you can cut back in your work time (if not at all) and make it workout!

  29. Jenn
    Jenn says:

    Someone may have said this but…. what I think people are missing is that too much is expected at a high level job or sometimes any job. This is not only for women but men too. Do we really need to work more then 50 hours a week on a consistant basis? The expectations of todays worker are unrealistic. She should be able to do it all, take a 12 week maternity leave, work a normal schedule and raise her family. Is someone going to die because she isn’t working that many hours? Will the world crash and burn? No! This all comes down to our societies greed, need for instant information, lack of teamwork and taking responsibility.

  30. jane
    jane says:

    I just love this debate! There may not be enough time in the day for women to have it all, but we sure deserve the right to choose – what it is we’re willing to have, and to give up.

    Marissa is expecting her first child at the age of 37, having had a brilliant and exciting career for 15 years. She will do what she will after she delivers the baby – and that may include ‘taking it easy’ on the job for a few weeks, or jumping head-first into the fray. In either case, it’s doubtful her child will go hungry or neglected. More power to her!

    Now, can we go back to the discussion, of how great this particular lady is, and how lucky Yahoo! is to get her?

    • Rachel D.
      Rachel D. says:

      Of course, because puffing up this woman’s ego is what I live for.

      Yahoo is lucky to have her, but her child, not so much.

      Fast forward 50 years when Ms. Mayers needs love and care in her old age. I doubt Yahoo will be changing her bed pans. She’ll wonder why her only son or daughter never visit, and why her caretaker, who is a complete stranger, is abusing her.

      This debate is about humanity…not a false sense of the progression of women’s issues.

      • Rachel C
        Rachel C says:

        ?? This is a bit melodramatic. She’ll spend some time with the kid, some time at work. I don’t recognise this world you’re describing, populated by hate-filled adults raised by wolves

        • Rachel D.
          Rachel D. says:

          How is this melodramatic???: “Fast forward 50 years when Ms. Mayers needs love and care in her old age. I doubt Yahoo will be changing her bed pans. She’ll wonder why her only son or daughter never visit, and why her caretaker, who is a complete stranger, is abusing her.”

          This is the reality for most parents in their old age. I am one of the rare few who actually still cared enough to take care of my mom when she got old, but I didn’t enjoy it. She didn’t show much love to me when I was a child, but I did my best anyway, in spite of it all.

          Reality: People ignore reality and lie to themselves and lie to each other.

  31. Ruth Zive
    Ruth Zive says:

    Penelope, I think I love you.

    I did #3 on your list – I’m 41, and ramping up my career big time (after 3 kids, one with Down syndrome, a divorce, a remarriage, two step children…and many years of staying at home and part-time work).

    I’ve been stalking you for a while (in the nicest kind of way), I just bought your book…please be my mentor?!? You’re a MUCH better role model than Marissa Mayer.

  32. Leslie
    Leslie says:

    If Marissa Mayer had children when she was 25 she would not be in a CEO position now. Her career would have taken a backseat to her children and she would not be competitive in her career.

  33. davidburkus
    davidburkus says:

    “Do you know what we do not celebrate? Staying home with kids.”

    You are dead on. My wife is finishing her last year as a medical resident at an intensive Emergency Room program. We recently had our first child and she’s decided that she wants to work in an off-site urgent care instead of the emergency room because the schedule allows her to stay home more. I love the idea but many in her program are calling her out and saying she’s “wasting” her talent by staying at home. Not sure what else could be further from the truth. Thanks for the great post.

  34. justamouse
    justamouse says:

    This is her first?

    Man plans and God laughs. We ALL had big plans before the first babies came. Then we realized those small people were stronger than anything ‘high powered’ and we were stomach punched with how much we loved them.

    She may be silent on it later, but I bet her first day back after birth she’ll want to crawl in a closet and cry. Or she could put the kid in daycare in the building and focus a camera on the lil bugger.

  35. Travis Scott
    Travis Scott says:

    I find it very difficult that her child will have a real relationship with her mother. The time and travel requirements of a CEO are taxing to say the least. It will be very difficult for her to have a real relationship with her child.

    The again, maybe we are all over exaggerating and shw will quit once her maternity leave runs out!

  36. Amy
    Amy says:

    What does ‘all’ mean? Is it possible to have a certain measure of all, or is that an oxymoron?

  37. CD
    CD says:

    This post takes me back to the moment I told my boss I was pregnant with my first child. His first response was not “Congratulatons,” but “How long will you take for maternity leave? I’ve known women who’ve taken 2 weeks and women who’ve taken as long as 6 weeks.” I knew right then that our professional relationship would never be the same.

  38. Heather
    Heather says:

    Love this post, and the story arc I’ve been seeing lately about why these women are NOT trailblazers. The 3 months of maternity leave I spent with my newborn last year were the most profound of my life. Choosing to take only 2 weeks, with the resources not to have to – while, yes, completely her choice – I think is tragically sad. She doesn’t even know yet what she’s giving up. And I hope other women don’t blindly follow that example.

    • Rachel C
      Rachel C says:

      Profound…. for you. I know mothers who have privately admitted they were so bored they couldn’t wait to go back to work.

      Can we stop judging others’ choices?

  39. sandyb
    sandyb says:

    Thank you for acknowledging how scary it DOES look from the outside looking in (I’m married five years, no kids, thriving career). It would be wonderful to see the next generation of women “really” have the right to choose (staying home or not) without feeling like she’s failing either way. That’s freedom.

  40. Mel
    Mel says:

    while i didn’t agree with your last post about having kids in your mid-twenties as the only way to career success, this post, i can get behind.

    so true.

  41. sandyb
    sandyb says:

    …also, I’d like to point out that there is a whole generation of women who depend on the mat-leaves of others; it’s the way a junior person (like a copy editor at a magazine, for example) could slip into a more senior role (like section editor) and prove herself. Eventually however, her goal becomes to usurp the baby-mama as soon as she returns from mat leave. It can be vicious, I’ve seen it – a real “timing” game. That said, I think mat leave (short or long) is part of the work ecosystem for women now – we rely on it to advance our careers. Is that the equivalent of sleeping with someone to move up? Curious. Great topic, Penelope, thank you!

  42. Leandra
    Leandra says:

    This is genius. You’ve got guts to write this, and I couldn’t agree more! As a FULL-time SAHM, I appreciate people who realize there is a choice, who see it as a responsibility. I believe as women, we should learn to listen to our instincts. If you’re crying your eyes out at baby’s first day of daycare at 6 wks post-partum, DO something! You can use your degree to educate your child until they are old enough & you can go back to work. I shrug when people say ‘Stay at home motherhood isn’t for everyone’. Who exactly is it for then, only mothers who want to be with their children?! Who is raising our youth? Oh boy, I could go on & on. Great advice, Penelope. Let’s re-define parenthood for the better!

  43. Emily
    Emily says:

    “It’s disappointing to women who don’t have kids to watch another woman with a fascinating, fun career leave that career to take care of her kids. It scares the women who don’t have kids.”

    Um, what? That’s a pretty presumptuous blanket statement you’ve made there. As a woman with no children, I am neither disappointed nor scared when a woman or man makes the choice to stay at home with children. My lack of children does not cause me to be judgmental of other people’s choices.

  44. channa
    channa says:

    Are the Obamas neglecting their kids? They work hard but they often work from home, and they moved the grandma into the house too. Maybe extended family will help with Ms. Meyers’ baby too. This is how children have been raised throughout history – read Sarah Hrdy.

    Expecting moms to do it alone is what is weird about our society, not the fact that women are admired for career success.

    I have two kids and although I took 14 weeks of leave with each, then worked at home for a few months, I could totally see returning after two weeks if I had unlimited support at home and executive assistants at work.

    Ms. Meyer can have a nursery installed next to her office with full-time nannies (or dad) onsite. She can nap between meetings, attend via videoconference, dictate emails while she nurses. Not really a big deal. She’s there to make decisions and talk to people, not to respond to customer calls or grind out spreadsheets.

    I wasn’t working, but I spent tons of time on my computer and phone when my babies were newborns. They hardly do anything, and I’m not much of a napper. I say strap them in a Moby Wrap and get back to work, quick before they turn three and demand to be the center of attention at all times.

    At the company where I’m currently working there’s a cafeteria cashier who only took four weeks off to have her baby. I feel terrible for her. No wonder women say they want to work part time, when they work in jobs that don’t give them any flexibility and they don’t have support at home. I don’t see anything wrong with full-time work if you’ve got a good job and lots of resources. If she was my mom I’d be proud!

  45. Rachel D.
    Rachel D. says:

    If someone could explain to me why she’s having children at all, I would greatly appreciate it.

    I made the conscious decision not to have kids and it was the best decision for me.

    Why aren’t more people realizing that not having children just might be the more responsible choice for the child’s best interest?

    Having kids and leaving them with strangers makes no sense to me.

    So why have kids?

    • channa
      channa says:

      Do you also choose not to have sex? Evolution has programmed us to enjoy sex and enjoy kids. We’re here to perpetuate the species. It brings us joy. That’s why. Even if we don’t spend 24 hours a day with them. ESPECIALLY if we don’t spend 24 hours a day with them.

      • Rachel D.
        Rachel D. says:

        I enjoy children immensely. I have my boyfriend’s 2 sons, plus nephew and nieces, and all of my friends have children that I’m lucky enough to see grow.

        They are all wonderful parents.

        Also, we can all agree…NOT EVERYONE IS MEANT TO HAVE CHILDREN. With all of the neglect and abuse and horrible situations out there today, I’m sure you know how silly this statement is….”Evolution has programmed us to enjoy sex and enjoy kids.”

        My question is specific to someone like Marissa Mayer. Why is she having children to just hand them off to someone else? I’m a strong enough woman to make the decision not to have kids. Why isn’t she?

        • channa
          channa says:

          Why would you say that she’s leaving her kids with strangers? Do you think she is going to choose some pedophile off the street as her nanny? If her husband decides to stay home is she still a weak person for having a child?

          It is so anti-woman and retrograde to isolate the mother and talk about “neglect and abuse” if she doesn’t personally park her ass at home to raise her kids.

          Maybe the reason that some mothers say that they want to stay home with their kids is less because it’s such a fun and healthy thing to do and more because of the massive shaming that society gives them for not doing so. At all income levels, stay-at-home-moms are vastly more depressed, sad and angry than women who work, moms or not. It’s an honorable thing but some people just can’t do it.

          Some of us, especially highly-paid women in technology careers, are lucky enough to have the resources to blend the home and work spheres. It’s awesome and fun, so why the judgement?

          The entire way that our families and communities have operated for millenia has changed and the best we can do is tell women to stop reproducing if they want to work?

          • Rachel D.
            Rachel D. says:

            I have to narrow my question and make it simpler.

            She obviously doesn’t want the job of “parent”, so why have kids at all?

            Do people just have children out of fear? Do they think children will add meaning to their lives? Do they fear regret for not having children?

            There’s an epidemic of people having children who don’t want to be parents. I just want to know why.

          • Rachel D.
            Rachel D. says:

            Channa, I do appreciate your responses and I see how you feel and understand it. I don’t know you and you’re probably a fine parent.

            I’ve been asking this question for years, about how the “job” of parent is so much more than just giving birth, and why do people choose that job. My observation of most people, men and women, is that they just don’t like the “job” of parenting. So I always ask “Why have kids.”

            It’s nothing personal against moms and dads out there who are doing their best.

            So I’m sure I’ll be asking this question for a very long time, because there is never a good answer to why people have kids when they don’t want to be parents.

  46. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    “She has announced she’ll take only two weeks maternity leave.”

    She didn’t say that according to your linked article which linked to the Fortune Magazine article.

    She said – “I like to stay in the rhythm of things,” she says, referring to the CEO job that she is starting tomorrow. “My maternity leave will be a few weeks long and I’ll work throughout it.”

    It is hopeful and aspirational. And it’s a FEW weeks … not TWO weeks.

    I’m always acutely aware of when someone says a “few” which means – a small but indefinite number. When someone told my father “a few (whatever)”, he called them on it because as an engineer he knew it was meaningless. So as an engineer, I can still “hear” my father who has long since passed and share his sentiments.

  47. Melanie
    Melanie says:

    I love how bold you are in you’re writing! You give examples and make your point clear. I like that you prompt new ideas.–Post feminist theory-love it! Journalism has been owned by whom? Reasons why we’re still in old convo. I’m a mom and certainly prefer a part-time job to a full time. At times 9-5 isn’t always necessary. Balance in life for me is necessary. I love taking my girls places to explore and discover life. As for Ms. Marissa Mayer life is a teacher and at times a child shall lead. Be Blessed!

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